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LETTERS 
OF LONG AGO 



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del me five /n a houre by /k f/'de of the road 
c/lnd he a fr/e/id to man 



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/? AW 
LETTERS OF LONG AGO 



BY 

AGNES JUST REID 






ILLUSTRATED BY 

MABEL BENNETT 



4 110 84 



MCMXXIII 

THE CAXTON PRINTERS, LTD. 

CALDWELL, IDAHO 



NAMPA PUBLIC LIBRARY 



7 



^ 



Designed, Printed and Bound by 

The CAXTON PRINTERS, Ltd. 

Caldwell, Idaho 

27256 



To My Mother 

Whose life motto has been : 

"Do Unto Your Children as You Wish Your Parents 
Had Done Unto You." 

This book is affectionately dedicated by 

HER DAUGHTER 



4<?46S 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 



The Wedding 9 

The House Beautiful 13 

A Son Is Born - 17 

Unexpected Visitors 21 

A Terpsichorean Episode 25 

Hope Turns to Despair : 29 

The Coming of the Peacemaker 33 

Sickness Comes in the Wilderness..... 37 

Another Son 41 

The Red Man's War-Whoop 45 

A New Friend 51 

An Addition to the House and to 

the Family 55 

The Witness Stand 59 

The Coming of the Londoners 65 

A Tragedy 69 

A Neighborhood Wedding 73 

When Death Comes 77 

Another Little Grave 83 

The First Circus 87 

Another Little Sister 91 

What Civilization Means 95 

A Little Sister 99 

The Big House 103 

An Irrigation Project 107 

Presto Ill 

Counting My Blessings 115 




THE WEDDING 



Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory, 

December 2, 1870. 
My Dear Father : 

T AM not sure you will approve of the step I have 
•*- taken, but I hope you will. I was married on the 
ninth of last month to a young man I had become 
acquainted with at the home of my aunt. Perhaps it 
was not the sensible thing to do, but you see, since 
my divorce two years ago I have been just sort of 
drifting. I left good friends and good opportunities 
in Montana to come here to my nearest of kin, think- 
ing I would be more contented, but I found the work 
with aunt very hard and the conditions, in general, 
harder than the work. You disapproved of my going 
on the stage, and after the baby came I was thank- 
ful that you had. For babies cry for a home with 
the first breath they draw. So my baby, who is be- 
coming quite a lad, is to have a home, built by a step- 
father, but a home for all of that. 

We had a queer wedding journey. I wish some of 
your friends there in that great city of London might 
have seen us and smiled, I was sitting in the covered 
wagon with my little boy, while the prospective 



10 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

bridegroom trudged along in the dust and sand try- 
ing to get two yoke of oxen over the ground fast 
enough to reach a justice of the peace before we were 
overtaken by winter. They are not record-breaking 
cattle, but they are as good as any in the valley, even 
though they did consume eight days in making the 
trip to Malad. 

The journey was not unpleasant, for the weather 
was fine, as you well know, it usually is here in the 
fall. At night the air would be crisp and cool, but 
my good comrade tied the cover down tightly over 
the wagon, so my boy and I were safe and snug while 
he stood guard over us. The country is full of wolves 
and Indians, but neither seem at all hostile toward 
us. As you know, the greatest fear the traveler en- 
tertains is that his oxen may stray away. 

That reminds me that I have not told you why we 
are starting our new home on the Blackfoot river. 
Nels has been doing some freighting during the time 
I had known him and once when the cattle slipped 
away from him during the night, they came to this 
very spot. The stage road is about six miles from 
here, so he soon followed them and found a wonder- 
ful little valley divided from the Snake River Valley 
by a strip of bench land and not visible from the 
stage line. 

From that day he has carried a vision with him, a 
vision of the home that we are founding today. Oh, 
father, it is a blfak looking place to think of spend- 
ing one's life in, but we have pure water, fresh air, 
fish and game in abundance, and room, room, any 
amount of it. 

Our capital in stock was $125. and it took most 
of it to buy a cook stove and lumber for a floor in the 
cabin that is to be. We brought up some freight for 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 11 

uncle and received in payment a small amount of 
flour, but I think enough to last through the winter. 
And we have, my dear father, your parting gift to 
me, three cows. Uncle kept the increase for the 
trouble they had been to him, but we have the cows 
and are truly grateful to you. Don't worry about us. 
We are both young and both able and willing to 
work, so that perseverance is all we need. Besides, 
this is luxury compared with the hard times in Utah 
some years back. We all came through even that, 
and you were always cheerful, giving your shares to 
mother and to us children and going without your- 
self. 

Poor, mother, how she must have suffered! She 
could not stand the way of the West, for she had 
been accustomed to comforts. With me it is dif- 
ferent, I have no recollection of anything but priva- 
tion, and as long as I can see the sun rise I am going 
to have courage,but Oh, do not ask me to come to you. 
That dreadful, sickening stretch of water lies be- 
tween us, and that dreadful London fog will be there 
to greet me, so I cannot come. How I wish you had 
stayed with me, since mother was never permitted to 
reach her beloved England anyway, but we might 
have blamed ourselves if you had not made the 
effort. 

There are times, though, when I need you so. I 
need your hopeful philosophy, your chronic content. 
I shall grow old gladly if I can, but hope to attain 
some measure of your contentment. Don't worry 
about me, father, there will be no drunkenness in 
this marriage, and therefore no divorce. Sometimes 
I feel uneasy because of my lack of real, all forgiving- 
love that guided my other marriage, but again I won- 
der what that great love gave me but misery. There 



12 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

is no deception, for my husband knows that I do not 
care as I should, but he, foolish boy, thinks that he 
cares enough for both of us. I call him a boy, though 
he is two years older, but he looks so very youthful. 
And a marriage, a divorce and a son make me feel 
very ancient. 

I wish I could put on paper some of the young- 
ster's attempts at conversation. It would do your 
heart good, He calls his step-father "Nee," the best 
he can do for Nels. Anyway, you can rest assured 
that he is a good healthy, normal youngster. What- 
ever frailties were brought from the old country to 
shorten the lives of your children has been weeded 
out in this generation. 

With our best love, 

Your Emma. 




THE HOUSE BEAUTIFUL 



Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory, 

April 11, 1871. 
My dear Father: 

i^|UR first winter has been a very pleasant one. 
" Very little snow and an early "breaking up." 1 
rather feared a winter like the one we spent in 
Soda Springs and had that been the case I could not 
have had your letter for several weeks yet, as we 
have to go twenty miles for even the possibility of a 
letter and it often ends in just a possibility, for the 
service is very uncertain. The mail is carried by the 
stage drivers and left at the station that seems most 
convenient. 

How glad I am that you remember Nels from old 
Soda Springs days, and were favorably impressed by 
his worthiness. I did not mention the fact that he 
had lived there, thinking that you, like myself, would 
be unable to remember him. Oh, there was nothing 
for us girls to see and remember those days but blue 
coats and brass buttons ! Why at the mature age of 
15, when I married my soldier boy, I regarded a half- 
grown Danish lad as quite beneath my notice. Yet, 
that is what my husband of today was then, and the 
worst of it is that he remembers me perfectly in all 
my complacency. 



14 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

Our first "house" is not one that would be likely 
to lure Queen Victoria from her throne, but it is 
ours, because we have made it with the simple mater- 
ials that God left strewn around here for us. It is 
only a hole in the ground, it differs from the habita- 
tions of the lesser animals, however, in the flatness 
of its walls and the squareness of its corners. It has 
no windows, but is lighted by a tallow dip and the 
cheerful fire on the hearth. We feel very wealthy 
because of our cook stove. You and I, father, lived 
and laughed in the days of the open fire. So with 
the stove to furnish us heat and a splendid heavy 
buffalo skin to keep the cold from coming in the 
opening that we use for a door, we have kept com- 
fortable. 

For furniture, well, first we have a wonderful bed- 
stead that Nels has made. Four legs made from a 
pine pole, with holes bored in them to put in side 
pieces, which are also made of pine poles. Then 
down the sides are many holes bored and through 
them are run strips of cowhide, laced back and forth, 
making springs. For mattress we have a tick filled 
with cured bunch-grass, that was cut with a scythe 
while the weather was warm. We have one chair, 
only one that I brought with me from Montana, and 
a table of rough pine boards that was given to us by 
a man at Fort Hall. We each had bedding and our 
dishes are so few I hate to enumerate. 

Things will be better, though, even in another 
year, for we have many plans for building and im- 
proving, but there is no work that will bring in 
anything. Last year it was different, there was 
work for everyone while they were building the fort 
eleven miles from here. Aunt and I made good 
money. I baked bread for thirty-five men, which 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 15 

meant thirty-five loaves, in a little number seven 
stove. That alone was quite a day's work, but they 
paid me either five cents a loaf or pound for pound 
of flour. That is, when I used a pound of flour for 
soldier bread I put a pound aside for ourselves and 
in the course of the summer it grew into a mighty 
pile. Besides this, Aunt and I together cooked for 
six of the mechanics, milked twenty cows and sold 
butter and milk to the soldiers, did washing and any- 
thing that would bring in money. I used to be 
dreadfully tired, but it was not so bad, and how I 
wish now that we had some of the work and some of 
the pay, it would help so much in the building of 
another house. 

We take the New York Sun and Peterson's Maga- 
zine. The stories of Frances Hodgson are running 
in the magazine and I like them so much. Mr. Shoe- 
maker is also very kind to loan us reading matter 
and he has a better supply than anyone. They live 
a little more than two miles down the river, but she 
is in such poor health that she seldom gets out of the 
house. Speaking of reading, I must tell you that 
Nels and I had one of our first quarrels over Shakes- 
peare. He has his complete works in the cheapest 
edition obtainable and he reads and reads until some- 
times he forgets to carry a bucket of water. Well, I 
felt very much abused and told him so. I know now 
that I was wicked, for I should be glad that he can 
be entertained in that manner. I've seen all of his 
best plays again and again, but I will not give my 
poor husband time to even read them. Women are 
surely funny folks. 

We shall plant a small garden, very small though, 
for the problem of irrigation is the next one. We 
have the land and we have the water, but the next 



16 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

thing is to bring them together. This year the gar- 
den will be a hand-made affair, watered with a 
bucket. 

The spring has brought some activities of the kind 
peculiar to frontier localities. An occasional trapper 
drops in on his way to a summer job or to market 
the furs from his winter's catch. How we welcome 
such company! Some of these fellows have good 
educations and have drifted here from the states, 
where everything is civilized. We listen to them 
eagerly, beg them to remain longer to share our 
primitive hospitalities and sigh when they pass on. 

Freddie sends you a big hug and wishes you would 
come and see us. I join in the wish, but I know that 
you will enjoy being quiet for a few years after the 
travel and hardship of the past. 

With my best love, 

Emma. 




A SON IS BORN 



Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory, 

November 15, 1871. 
My Dear Father: 

A NOTHER little grandson for you before you have 
"■ ever seen the first one. Born October 26th to a 
most disappointed mother. I did so want him to be 
a girl. I guess everyone wants the first born to be 
a son but after that surely one should be allowed "a 
little sister." So I had my plans all laid that way, 
without giving a thought to his father's interest in 
the matter, and poor little rascal, I hardly forgave 
him until he was three days old. Then his father 
said very gallantly, and I knew truthfully, as well, 
that he had always wanted him to be a boy, so I sup- 
pose the poor little chap will feel at least half wel- 
come. His coming was a marvel, and still is. I con- 
fess I had dreaded it, with a dread that every mother 
must feel in repeating the experience of child-bear- 
ing. I could only think that another birth would 
mean another pitiful struggle of days' duration, fol- 



18 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

lowed by months of weakness, as it had been before. 
Then at the eleventh hour my aunt refused to be 
with me because of some little differences Nels had 
had with her two boys. The world did not look very 
bright just at that point in our history. However, 
my good Nettie offered to leave her husband to do 
his own housekeeping to help us, and three days 
after she came little Jimmie was born. Born with 
so little travail that I scarcely had time to know I 
was in labor until I heard his cry. Then Nettie, dear 
tender hearted Nettie, our only help, broke down 
and could not do a thing for either of us. So Nels 
was our surgeon and I my own nurse. They brought 
me the clothes and the water and I washed and 
dressed my own child just as a Bannock squaw would 
have done. In fact, I think I am going back to them. 
I feel each day that I am becoming less and less 
civilized and more and more a part of the wild waste 
around me. I have lived in the open much during 
the summer, riding and driving a great deal. Why, 
only a little more than a month before my confine- 
ment, Nels and I went fishing up the river on horse- 
back and on the way home I was a little behind and 
as Nels rounded a bend in the river and went out of 
sight, my horse became frightened and ran to over- 
take him. I was carrying my fish pole and it fright- 
ened me so I did not ride any more. 

When baby was three days old Nettie had to go 
home so I got up and helped with the work, then 
when he was only ten Nels had to go for our winter 
supplies so that left me with the milking, just one 
cow now, and wood carrying. I guess I rather over- 
did the thing, for I took quite sick during his ab- 
sence and I don't know just how I could have man- 
aged, but "Old Wood," one of our bachelor friends, 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 19 

happened in and found me, so he came regularly 
after that until Nels got back. 

I must not forget to tell you that we have a new 
house, a cabin twelve by fourteen, and all of our 
costly (?) furnishings from the dugout are moved 
into it. Nels worked several days for a man at the 
stage station at $1.50 per day, and immediately paid 
a neighbor who lives less than a mile up the river, 
the same amount to help him build the cabin. We 
have sold the two yoke of oxen, too, and have a pony 
team. The oxen brought four hundred dollars. 

During the early spring Nels had a very small 
contract for a very small irrigating system. He 
brought water from Willow Creek, a distance of two 
miles, to Eagle Rock, where the Andersons have a 
store and toll bridge. He did it all with a shovel and 
a good deal in the spirit of a joke, still they paid him 
one hundred dollars, and that looks like a fortune to 
us. He is quite an expert with a shovel and I think 
has an unusual gift in recognizing water ways and 
water resources. 

We drive and ride often on the bench land that 
gives us a splendid view of the Snake River valley, 
and he never fails to tell me that sometime there will 
be a railroad through the country. He says in ten 
years, but it seems to me it would be a very foolish 
railroad indeed that would come into this endless 
stretch of sand and sage-brush. 

Can you fancy you see your little grandson num- 
ber two, nestled here in the hollow of my arm as I 
write? He is one of the two finest boys in the world 
and how I wish you were here to help me love them. 
What a shame that you who love little ones so should 
be deprived of enjoying these. Oh, if you could just 
reach out your hand and touch the soft little black 



20 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

hair that covers this baby head. He has only a scan- 
ty wardrobe and every day is wash day at our house, 
but he is normal and healthy, so I am content. 

With love from your three, 

Emma. 




UNEXPECTED VISITORS. 



Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory, 

May 15th, 1872. 
My Dear Father: 

A NOTHER spring has come to us and brought 
•^-with it another of your letters. Surely I shall 
never be discouraged with such a father to send mes- 
sages of cheer. The winter passed rather uneventful- 
ly as I am learning they usually do on Idaho ranches, 
but we all kept well and therefore, happy. Our little 
new baby never saw a white woman for a stretch of 
five months. He did not seem to mind it however, 
and when the first mild days came I carried him in 
my apron down to see my aunt where she and uncle 
were building fence, and he screamed with terror 
at the sight of a strange woman. I hate to burden 
you with these things, but aunt has never been to see 
me and I felt she must see the baby for she is the 
nearest to you that I have, but Oh, so different ! 

The winter was unenventful but the spring, the 
spring has been wonderful! We have had guests, 
distinguished guests from the big world itself. You 
see there is a land to the north of us, perhaps a hun- 
dred miles, that is considered marvelous for its 
scenic possibilities and the government is sending a 
party of surveyors, chemists, etc., to pass judgment 
with a view to setting it aside for a national park. 



22 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

Well, this party happened to stop at our little cabin. 
There were representatives from all of the big east- 
ern colleges, and then besides, there were the Moran 
brothers. I think you must have heard of Thomas 
Moran even as far away as England, for he is a 
wonderful nature artist. And his brother John is 
what I have heard you speak of as a "book maker/' 
He writes magazine articles. And these two remark- 
able men were interested in us and in our way of 
living. Think of it, father! I took them into the 
cellar where I had been churning to give them a 
drink of fresh butter-milk and while they drank 
and enjoyed it, I was smoothing the rolls of butter 
with my cedar paddle that Nels had whittled out for 
me with his pocket knife. I noticed the artist man 
paying special attention to the process and finally 
he ventured rather apologetically: "Mrs. Just, 
would you mind telling me what you varnish your 
rolls of butter with that gives them such a glossy 
appearance ?" I thought the man was making fun of 
me, or sport of me as you would express it, but I 
looked into his face and saw that is was all candor. 
That is one of the happiest experiences of my life for 
that man who knows everything to be ignorant in the 
lines that I know so well. I tried to make him under- 
stand that the smooth paddle and the fresh butter 
were all sufficient but I think he is still rather be- 
wildered. And do you know, since that day, the art 
of butter making has taken on a new dignity. I 
always did like to do it, but now my cedar paddle 
keeps singing to me with every stroke, "Even Thom- 
as Moran cannot do this, Thomas Moran cannot do 
this," and before I know it the butter is all finished 
and I am ready to sing a different song to the wash 
board. 






LETTERS OF LONG AGO 23 

Yes, I am doing washing now and earning money 
so I have every reason to be happy. There are well 
to do southern families at Eagle Rock, eighteen miles 
away, and Nels drives there with the pony team and 
brings their washing for me to do. It is not hard 
and they appreciate having me do it for they have 
always had colored folks to wait on them and are 
very inexperienced and helpless. I thank you father 
for bringing me to the wilderness when I was young 
enough so that I have been able to grow up useful. 
I am surely sorry for people that are not able to help 
in the world's work when there is so much of it to 
be done. The neighbors, the few scattered ones we 
have, are prone to criticize the way we get along, 
they say I make the living and a few such unkind 
things, but there is no work for Nels without he goes 
away from home and I will do anything rather than 
have him go. I know how it looks to them, but I 
want you to understand that I am not complaining. 
Nels has faults, but indolence is not among them. 
He is really so very energetic that the task of "wait- 
ing for something to turn up" makes him quite ir- 
ritable. I think, take it all around, though, that we 
are as happy as most people and the children are 
surely a great comfort to us both. 

With our best love, 

Emma. 



A TERPSICHOREAN EPISODE 




Dear Father : 

OUR washerwoman has be- 
come a slave to frivolities 
no doubt the children 
will be going hungry in 
consequence. Yes, I have 
really been some place 
and that some place was a 
dance. The officers at Ft. 
Hall gave a general invi- 
tation to the settlers for 
a radius of sixty miles to 
come and make merry with the people at the post. I 
had very little hopes of going, for my husband cares 
not a thing for anything of that nature, but all the 
time I kept wanting to go, yet dreading to urge it. 
During the afternoon of the eventful day, a young 
couple who live at the stage station drove over and 
wanted me to go with them. My heart was in my 
throat because of my eagerness to go and my dread 
that Nels would be displeased with my going. Final- 
ly he came in and said with all the kindness in the 
world: "Emma, I know you want to go to that 
dance, go right along with these people and I will 
stay with the children but be home early." Oh, how 
happy I was! I knew that everyone in the valley 
would be there and such a celebration it would be! 
I had but one dress that was the least bit respect- 
able and it was only calico, but it was nicely starched 
and ironed and being sort of a buff color, I thought, 
would be just the thing for evening wear. The truth 



26 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

is Father, it did not matter much what I had to 
wear, just so I could go. So all went lovely. The music 
was good and everyone was deligted to see everyone 
else, so we talked and danced, then talked and danced 
some more. I don't believe there were more than 
twenty women there and it took them all to fill the 
floor, they ranged in ages from twelve to sixty, but 
there were no wall flowers. After midnight, I began 
to get anxious to start home, but I could see that it 
was plainly an all-night affair. The only prepara- 
tion on the part of the man that h&d so kindly 
taken me was, he was getting too drunk to drive. 
At two I was on the floor in a quadrille, when a hand 
touched my shoulder and my husband was saying: 
"Emma your baby wants you." I vanished like 
Cinderella herself might have done. Someone took 
my place in the set and we were on our way without 
bidding anyone goodby, without thanking any host, 
just on our way back to the baby. Our progress 
through the night was not rapid, for Nels had ridden 
a mule, that being the only animal kept up. I rode 
him and Nels walked along side of me. As we came 
over the last rise and found the cabin all safe that 
held our precious boys, dawn was breaking in the 
east. We had had a night of it. My husband's father 
has been with us all during this summer and he 
has built an addition to our house. A nice little 
"dobie" bedroom on the south end. Why, we feel 
quite aristocratic, for we no longer sleep in the 
room where we do our cooking. 

We have had one unpleasant experience since I 
wrote last. Nels and his father had been cutting 
hay on the other side of the river and wanted to haul 
it over and stack it. The water was quite high and 
the crossing none too safe, so as Nels attempted to 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 27 

ford, one of the horses saw fit to balk right in mid- 
stream. He could see that the delay was going to 
be his undoing, so he jumped for his life and let a 
goodly portion of our earthly possessions float down 
the river. He managed to get out on the home side 
of the stream and came rushing to the house, hatless 
and dripping. "Well, here I am, Sis, but the team 
and wagon are gone to hell," is the way he greeted 
me. Needless to say, my heart was too full of 
thanksgiving to spend much time in useless regrets, 
for little as we could afford such a loss, how much 
less able we'd have been to lose him. It was not such 
a complete loss, anyway, for I went back with him 
and we found the entire outfit lodged. One horse 
was drowned, but the other had kept itself up on the 
dead one, so we rescued one horse and most of the 
wagon and harness. That evening I returned the 
scare he had given me with interest. We had been 
working on the other side of the river and Nels told 
me to come to the foot log and wait for them to help 
me across. It was growing late and there were the 
cows to milk and supper to get, so I decided in the 
face of the disasters o£ the morning, it would be easy 
for me to cross the foot log. The foot log, however, 
was scarcely more than a pole and one end of it 
splashed down into the same surging water that had 
taken our team, but my courage was up. I took the 
baby first and told Freddie if we fell in he must wait 
there until his Dad came. When I landed the first 
time I took the baby well back so he could not creep 
to the edge and was soon back with the big boy. I 
went merrily home and had supper ready when Nels 
came in, white and ready to faint with fright. 
"Don't ever do that fool trick again," was about all 
he could say, for it had been a day of trials for him. 



28 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

Never had it occured to me that he would be fright- 
ened. I thought I was doing only my duty, but I 
know that the foot log is almost unsafe for a man 
and I am usually rather cowardly about water, as 
you will remember. Maybe I shall try the ocean 
next if you do not come to me. 

I hope you are as well as this leaves us. 

With love from, 

Emma. 




HOPE TURNS TO DESPAIR 



My Dear Father: 

rpHE months have passed and I have neglected you. 
■■" Neglected writing to you, but 0, never neglected 
thinking of you ! Day after day thinking of you and 
praying that in some way your love for me will guide 
me aright. I have tried to write cheerfully to you, 
but if something should happen to me before we meet 
again, I should like to feel that you understood. 
Sometimes in the months just past I have felt that 
I might lose my mind, or even lose myself in the 
friendly river that I once feared. There must have 
been a growing dissatisfaction somewhere concealed 
in my heart almost from the time of our marriage. 
You remember, I told you it was not through senti- 
ment that I married Nels but because I considered 
it the sensible thing to do. Think of it father ! Think 
of trying to found a home without that prime essen- 
tial, love. Of course I tried to be reasonable and 
think that romance, for me, was a thing of the past. 
I tried to believe that my love for Freddie's father 
was the only love that was ever to come into my 
life, but I failed to take into consideration that I was 
only twenty-one years old, so I cast my lot in the 
wilderness with a man for whom I could never feel 
anything more sacred than respect. 



30 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

When the spring came, the third since our marri- 
age, I concluded it was a hopeless task and I would 
put an end to it. Yes, I was going to run away. I 
had friends everywhere that would consider such a 
course praiseworthy. So my plans were all laid, 
even to giving up my little boy. I could not take 
Jimmie from his father, so I steeled myself to leave 
him as a sacrifice to the man I had wronged. I was 
to go with the older boy to the nearest county seat 
and secure a divorce, which is a very easy matter, 
then go farther east where I have friends. I was 
to leave all this barren life and go where there was 
civilization and cheer. I was to go where there was 
something besides hard work and where sometime 
the love of my womanhood might come to me ! The 
love that is called the grand passion! The love that 
makes life worth while ! 

So I went along making my plans to go, counting 
the hours until I should be free, and trying not to 
look backward. Then one evening, I know not why, 
perhaps you sent the guidance for which I had 
prayed, but be that as it may, I told Nels all about 
it. Told him just as I have told you. Poor, poor 
man ! What a shame he couldn't have been spared the 
suffering that I have caused him. Of course, he 
acted like a madman for several days, then lapsed 
into melancholy. Now, we are plodding along in the 
same old way, only with the knowledge that I have 
ruined all the chances for happiness that we ever 
had. 

I am still doing washing for diversion and it mat- 
ters little how many tears drip into the suds. Our 
evenings are spent in the gloomiest of glooms and 
Nels often says with a sigh, "My idols are clay." It 
is awful for him to have been so disappointed and it 
is awful for me to have been the cause. 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 31 

Now, there is to be another baby. Another one 
to share our unhappy lives. I am glad for my own 
sake, but what of the child! 

It seems almost criminal to me, for a woman to 
bear children, by a man she does not love. Yet every 
day there are hundreds of babies born into homes 
where there is nothing but discord. Surely the 
world is nothing but discord, take it all-in-all. 

Oh, father, do come back to us ! Can't you dispose 
of your interests there and come back to stay ? With 
your wisdom, perhaps you could straighten out some 
of the tangles in our lives. It seems to me that no 
lesser person could ever bring harmony into our dis- 
corded lives. 

The children are well and are becoming quite 
good play-fellows now. Jimmie has golden curly 
hair and it makes a queer contrast to his black eyes. 
I thought when I began to write that there was not a 
thing in life for which I was thankful, but I know, 
when I speak of Jimmie, that I am glad I stayed to 
be his mother. 

Your unhappy* 

Emma. 




THE COMING OF THE PEACEMAKER. 



Dear Father: 



Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory, 

May 5, 1874. 



A NOTHER member has been added to our house- 
s-hold, another boy. This time I was not disap- 
pointed with a boy, in fact, I rather rejoiced. There 
are so many things some of them very unpleasant, 
that boys escape by the natural order of law and 
life, so henceforward boys will be very welcome. 
Sometimes I think now that I never want a girl. My 
own life has been so full of blunders and mistakes, 
why transmit such tendencies to another genera- 
tion! 

Anyway the little chap is named for you and for 
Uncle William, George William, and he loves his 
grandfather already, though he is only a month old. 
He brought a great peace with him and it has settled 
over our little home with an air of permanency. I 
feel more certain of our happiness now than I have 
ever felt since our marriage. Values for me, seemed 
all upset for a while; now they have taken their 
proper places. I have ceased to long for the things 
that I felt so necessary to my happiness and I am 



34 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

learning to be happy with what I have. Nels, too, 
seems to have been chastened by my dissatisfaction 
of a year ago and is more considerate and thoughtful. 

This time we were not alone to welcome the little 
stranger. A woman from the stage station was with 
us and it was most fortunate for I was sick several 
hours and not as able to help with the baby. 

My good Heneage had expected to come and stay 
with me for a couple of weeks, but her brother Dick 
took suddenly sick the day she had planned to come. 
You remember, Dick was never a very strong look- 
ing young man and he had a stubborn case of typhoid 
fever. A doctor from Fort Hall waited on him and 
he had the best nursing that this country affords, 
but he died after suffering about three weeks. 

This is the first death in the valley and it strikes 
very near to us all. I did not go to the funeral for 
my baby was very young, but they buried him in a 
corner of his father's claim not far from the Snake 
river. It seems very lonesome here to be among the 
first settlers in a new country, but what must it be 
to be the first buried in a new country ! I shudder to 
think of it, and I hope that the song of the river 
reaches the lonely spot where he sleeps. 

Father, would you believe that your "washer 
woman" has a wonderful new piece of furniture? 
A sewing machine! Think of it! The simplest 
Singer on the market and it cost $72. I told you 
that I was earning money of my own by washing for 
the Andersons ; well, my first earnings paid for that. 
It was freighted with an ox team from Corinne to 
Eagle Rock. It surely is an acquisition and my 
friends come from miles around to have me sew for 
them. They gladly do all of the drudgery around 
the house if I will just condescend to put machine 
stitching on their hems. 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 35 

We also have a glove making job that seems to 
have quite a fortune in it for us. The Andersons 
supply us with buckskins, thread, buttons, etc., and 
we make the gloves for 75 cents a pair. In this work 
Nels is able to help me a great deal. He does all of 
the cutting out, then I do the work with the machine 
and he turns and trims them. Lastly I finish them 
by hand. We often complete three pair in a day, 
during our leisure, and that seems like making 
money pretty fast to us. Most of it has to be done 
at night after the children are in bed. We burn two 
tallow candles and it almost keeps one of us occupied 
keeping them "snuffed" so that they will give a good 
light. 

Being a "shop keeper, ,, perhaps you will like to 
know more of the glove industry. The skins make, 
on an average, three pairs of gloves each, and they 
bring from $1.50 to $2.50 per pair, the price being 
regulated by the quality of the buckskin. How do 
you think they would sell to your London customers ? 

Sometimes I get a chance to make a pair of buck- 
skin pants for a trapper or miner, they have to be 
lined and are quite difficult to make, but I get $5 for 
making a pair. Once I was making some for a man 
that was riding with my husband and wanted to get 
them done while they were away. In my eagerness, 
I cut both sides for one leg, so, of course, spoiled two 
fine skins — skins that did not belong to us, too. 
When the man, who expected his pants to be ready 
to wear said, very slurringly: "Yes, I've always 
heard that a woman can throw it out of the window 
with a spoon faster than a man can throw it in the 
door with a shovel," I was just ready to cry real 
angry tears, when Nels came to my rescue by saying : 
"Never mind, Sis, we'll get two more buckskins and 



36 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

you can make two more legs to go with the two you 
already have." We did that and soon found sale for 
the second pair, so there was nothing wasted. 

The baby is waking and the cows are coming home 
to be milked so my letter must be brought to a close. 

With the love of your three grandsons and, 

Yjour Emma. 




SICKNESS COMES IN THE WILDERNESS 



Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory, 

February 15, 1876. 



Dear Father: 



TTOW easily we may say or write "we are all well," 
•*•-■• and it seems to carry so little meaning, but 
henceforward it shall always be the most meaning- 
ful sentence in the language tx> me. For I have learn- 
ed what it is to be unable to say it ! I have learned 
what it is to watch and work and wait by the side of 
a little sufferer until I was almost frantic, searching 
for one ray of hope. I have learned what it is to go 
night after night without closing my eyes until I 
ceased to feel that sleep was a necessity. Yes, 
father, I have learned a lot of things. 

Early in September our little golden haired Jim- 
mie was stricken with a terrible fever, something of 
the nature of typhoid, yet the doctor gave it some 
other unpronouncable name, and for four months he 
lay, feeble, moaning, unconscious. After the first 
few days he never recognized any of us, but would 
open his mouth like a little bird when anyone came to 



38 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

the bed. Every two hours we fed him from a spoon, 
either medicine or liquid nourishment, and every 
six hours bathed him. 

Some days I would feel hopeful and meet the 
doctor with, "Oh, he is better today, doctor," but 
the doctor would look at him and shake his head. 
His solemn "No change" would shatter my rising 
hopes. I have never lost a child but it seems to me 
that we must have suffered more than we would to 
have really given him up. There was his pitiable 
little skeleton ever before us, almost accusingly, as 
much as to say we were not doing enough ; there was 
the endless, nerveracking care of him, and there was 
ever the conviction that we must lose him after all. 

We had some help with the nursing. Aunt came, 
and dear Heneage Garret, who was just married to 
a young Southerner, forsook her husband for a few 
weeks and came to us in our need. We had a woman 
from Fort Hall too for a time, but four months is a 
long time to worry through, and much of the time 
we two were alone fighting for that precious life. 
Even little Freddie has had to be enlisted as washer 
woman and I shall long remember his faithfulness 
in washing little garments, at the same time amus- 
ing Baby Will by letting him "fish" in the tub with 
a tiny pole and line. 

We never really knew when the change did come, 
but gradually, so gradually, he began to mend. Then, 
we were able to release the doctor from his self-im- 
posed contract. He had made over a hundred trips 
on horseback, a distance of 22 miles, and we 
poor, poverty-stricken home-builders had only one 
hundred dollars to offer him for all his wonderful 
services. Goodness I hope if heaven is crowded, that 
all the rest of humanity will be cast out to make 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 39 

room for the doctors, doctors such as this one. We 
asked him his charges, and he said, were we able 
to pay, five hundred dollars would be the least he 
could ask, but knowing our circumstances, he wanted 
nothing. Think of it, father! And yet some old 
cronies will tell you that the world is getting worse 
and every second man you meet is a scoundrel. I've 
never found it so. We insisted, however, that he 
take all we had, to prove in some measure our grati- 
tude to him. I even said, "Why doctor, you have 
saved our child," and he came back with "Saved 
your child, no, my good woman, all my knowledge of 
medicine could never have saved that child, had it 
not been for your nursing and your strict observance 
of my directions. Doctors could save a great many 
more children if they were only blessed with mothers 
like you." 

So after nearly half a year, our sunny little boy 
has come back to us. He learned to stand again, 
and to walk the early part of this month. He has 
been eating solid food, tiny strips of dry toast, piled 
high to look like a great quantity, and he has grown 
fat like a little baby again. 

Once more we sleep through the night without 
interruptions, once more we listen to three peaceful 
little breathers, instead of a moan, once more we are 
happy in our cabin home. 

With our fondest love, 

Emma, 




ANOTHER SON 



Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory, 

September 30, 1876. 
My dear Father : 

T T must be almost an toild story to you now to hear 
■■■that we have another boy at our house. Anyway, 
another one we have, born the sixteenth of this 
month. You no doubt are keeping count and know 
that he is the fourth, but do you realize that your 
"Little Gal Em" has more of a family than her 
mother ever had? It means a great many responsi- 
bilities and a great many duties, but I still feel equal 
to the task, if I could just be sure that four would be 
all. Surely no mother should be called upon to wash 
and cook and sew for more than four. Surely not a 
mother who is called upon to do for them so early 
either. Yes, again we were alone to welcome the 
little mite. 

I think I have told you that Mrs. Shoemaker is ail- 
ing a great deal so she keeps a girl year in and year 
out. She is a faithful Danish girl that would be a 
substantial addition to any household and Mrs. Shoe- 
maker had promised to let her come to me when I 



42 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

needed her. Nels and I drove down expecting to 
bring her home but the Shoemakers had suddenly 
discovered that they could not spare her. Of course, 
there was no time to make other arrangements, after 
depending upon her until the eleventh hour, so we 
came home a pretty blue pair of expectant parents. 
Before morning the baby had arrived. We took care 
of him just as we did little Jimmie, Nels acting as 
a surgeon and I as a nurse. Sometime during the 
most exciting times Nels moved the stove in from 
the little shanty kitchen where we had done our 
cooking during the hot weather, and had it in read- 
iness for the newcomer. Poor little fellow, his com- 
ing did not disturb many people, but he seems as 
happy and healthy as if he were a prince and wel- 
comed by a whole kingdom full of people. We have 
named him Francis. I had always hoped to have a 
little girl to bear my mother's name, but it has begun 
to look as if we never shall, so he may have it. 

You asked about school for the children. It seems 
about as unattainable as the moon and I must con- 
fess that I have not given it any very serious 
thought. What is it the Bible says about "Sufficient 
unto the day?" Each day brings so many cares that 
I cannot look far into the future. Sometimes I won- 
der whether we are going to be able to subdue these 
conditions enough to produce the necessities of life 
for our ever increasing family. Of course, we are 
teaching Freddie to read in the evenings. The books 
you have sent and a few given to him by friends here 
are supplying endless entertainment but when I 
really think of an education for them, here in the 
wilderness, it frightens me. 

My first work now, when I am able to work again 
will be to make winter suits for three little boys. 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 43 

There is no store to buy material from and no money 
to buy it with, but frequently men who are traveling 
through the country will leave an old pair of pants 
or a badly worn shirt and from them comes a new 
suit- Nearly every thing worn here is good wool 
and when the old garments are washed and pressed 
they look like new. I suppose the little chaps would 
look very different from the ones that pass your shop 
window, but I try to keep them warm in winter, cool 
in summer and tidy all the year round. 

The poor youngsters were the innocent cause of 
their mother being foolishly offended once during 
the winter. A sleigh came with bells, a most unusual 
occurance, in fact I think it had never happened be- 
fore since we have lived here, and the children in 
their mad rush to the door fell over each other or 
over the chairs. Anyway when the occupant of the 
sleigh came in they were all crying. He remarked 
very pleasantly that he always found when a strang- 
er stopped at a ranch house, there was a kid crying 
in every corner. I answered him very sharply that 
we only had three children so there was not one in 
every corner. I hope he does not come this way 
again, partly because I did not like his impertinence, 
and partly because I do not want him to know that 
there is one in every corner now. 

There seems to be a little dissatisfaction among 
the Indians and it worries the settlers. Up to the 
present they have never shown anything but the 
most friendly attitude, but we hear vague rumors of 
uprisings among the tribes to the north of us and we 
fear it may extend to this reservation any time. I 
have never feared them because of our experiences 
with them that winter at Soda Springs. They might 
so easily have wiped out that little handful of us, 



44 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

had they cared to do so, I think in most cases, the 
White folks are at fault when any difficulties arise. 
However, we are not always our "brother's keeper", 
else we would surely try to keep him from doing 
imprudent things with regard to the Indians, and 
thus be assured of their good will. 

We have all been exceptionally well during the 
summer and hope when your precious letter reaches 
us it will bring as good tidings from you. 

With love from all, 

Emma. 




THE RED MAN'S WAR-WHOOP. 



Dear Father : 



Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory, 

September 14, 1877. 



T^ELL me, father, is it a mark of insanity for one 
■*■ to wish to take his own life? My husband says it 
is, but I insist that it is perfectly sensible, so we shall 
expect you to cast the deciding vote. I have been on 
the point of killing my children and myself that we 
might be spared a more terrible fate, and before you 
agree with Nels that my mind is becoming unbal- 
anced, I want you to know how logical it all appears 
to me. I think I must have mentioned our fear of 
an Indian uprising when I wrote last. Well, with the 
coming of spring our worst fears were confirmed 
and the summer has been a season of terror. I often 
wonder if some of the newspaper reports reach even 



46 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

to where you are and if you picture us, your very 
own, being burned to death in the little cabin as you 
read of a lonely habitation being destroyed. 

The Nez Perces tribes to the north of us with 
Chief Joseph as leader has been doing depradations 
of all descriptions, and each time we hear, coming 
nearer and nearer to us. Albert Lyon, whom you 
remember from Soda Springs days, was captured by 
them out in the Birch Creek country, which is only 
a hundred miles from here, and he barely escaped 
with his life. He was freighting with Green's outfit 
and when the Indians came upon them they took 
possession of the wagons and drivers but assured 
them that they meant no harm, just wanted to detain 
them so that they could not give the alarm. After 
being held several days, Lyon managed to give them 
the slip by dropping into the wash then following 
down the bed of the stream, and finally reached a 
cabin in time to save himself from a death of starva- 
tion. His fellow travelers were all killed and the 
wagons burned before the savages moved camp. 
Some, who wish to promote a Christian attitude to- 
ward the red man, insist that it was because Lyon 
betrayed the trust, but it seems to me he simply 
saved his own scalp. 

But to return to my own story. Nels has been 
putting up hay at Fort Hall the greater part of the 
summer, often staying away over night. Brooding 
as I did, I could not sleep when alone and I dared not 
make a light for it would only serve as a target for 
some stealthy redskin, so all night my imagination 
ran riot. I would see through the windows bushes 
and stumps that were familiar to me by daylight, but 
by night they took the form of a crouching savage, 
of which there were a million more just behind the 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 47 

shadows, surrounding the cabin. Night after night 
I spent in that way, and day after day I milked the 
cows and made the butter with my head hidden 
away in an old slat sunbonnet, lest the children 
might discover my changing expressions. 

When Nels came home he brought papers with 
vivid descriptions of the path of terror the Indians 
were leaving in their wake and I felt positive that it 
was only a matter of time until they would join our 
own tribes here and complete the destruction of the 
white race in southern Idaho. 

The fall days began to come on when a heavy haze 
hung over everything, sometimes poetically called 
"Indian Summer," but that one word has taken the 
poetry out of everything for me this summer. Nels 
had not been home for several days and the despera- 
tion of continued loneliness was upon me, when to- 
ward evening the children came rushing in from 
their play to say there was a fire on the hill south of 
us. I tried to assure them that is was just something 
that looked like a fire, but I knew too well that it 
was a fire, a signal fire, that one band makes to let 
the others be in readiness for a celebration. That 
night I was almost frantic and while the children 
slept I made up my mind what I must do to save 
them. I resolved never to let them be mutilated by 
savage fingers before my very eyes. No, no ! I had 
read of such cases and mine should never suffer so, 
while I was held captive perhaps to bear other child- 
ren by the savage brute that had murdered mine. 
I had given existence to mine, now at such a crisis 
it was my right to take it from them. I would drown 
the older ones, one by one, then take the baby in my 
arms and go in beside them. To try to hide would 
be useless — the baby would cry and we would be 



48 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

found and tortured more for trying to deceive them, 
so with the first intimation of their approach we 
would find our only safety in the river so near at 
hand. 

I felt perfectly sure that the end was near, the 
signal fire had been the culminating event in the 
tragedy, but after the children had eaten the break- 
fast which I was unable to taste, I went on with the 
milking, through force of habit, I suppose. I'd milk 
a cow, then go up the hill to strain my eyes for the 
coming of the enemy. At last I saw what I ex- 
pected to see, a dust, or was it a smoke? In either 
case it meant the same. It was just at the point 
where the Shoemakers live and if it were dust, the 
Indians were reaching there; if smoke, they had 
been there and were leaving. There was no time to 
lose. I called my poor terror-stricken babies around 
me and told them we must all drown together. If 
the older ones held any differences of opinion, they 
knew their mother too well to express them, so with 
a board in my hand, on which was to be scribbled an 
explanation to Nels, we started to the river. 

Like Lot's wife I turned once to look back, and the 
cause of the dust I had seen was in plain view — my 
husband. I have heard of the interventions of Provi- 
dence and this must be an illustration, for in ten 
minutes more he would have been a man without a 
family. He called me crazy and said he would never 
trust me alone again and I am not sure that I blame 
him. The solitude must be getting on my nerves. I 
need a neighbor. I need companionship. I never 
seem to feel lonesome for I am always busy, but I 
have had too much of my own society. 

He brought the word that the wicked Nez Perces 
have swerved back to their own reservation and our 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 49 

own tribe are in the most peaceful frame of mind so 
we can feel relieved until the green grass starts 
again. 

Little Francis is a most remarkable looking child. 
Weighed twenty-seven pounds at five months old. I 
don't know that he is any more healthy than the 
others have been but he is a picture of contentment. 
He is so large that he is inactive and will sit for 
hours in one place, just being good. 

I hope this recital will not worry you, Father, 
since it has all passed into history before it is ever 
written, but I want you to know how terrifying it 
really is, so that you will not blame me if I ever do 
have to kill the youngsters to outwit the savages. 

With all our love, 

Emma. 




A NEW FRIEND, 



Dear Father : 



Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory, 

April 3, 1878. 



rPHE spring has come again and found us all here 
•*■ enjoying the best of health. I rather imagine 
that my last letter has disturbed you a good deal 
during the months that you have not heard, but I 
have not had occassion to threaten the lives of my 
poor youngsters again. 

We have had more Indian scares, too, but I have 
had pleasant companionship and the river has been 
frozen over, two good reasons for more deliberation. 

A woman with two small children, acquaintances 
of ours, who live over on the stage road, came over 
to stay with us while she had a felon treated by the 
doctor at Fort Hall. The felon was a terror so she 
was here many weeks and what had been a mere 
acquaintance has ripened into a friendship that I 
am sure will be enduring. She is such a calm, 
patient, southern woman, quite young in years but 
so old in experience. She came west as a bride. 
Not a particularly happy one either for the marriage 



52 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

had been arranged by her elders without her con- 
sent. After struggling along for several years, she 
left the husband and came to the stage station near 
us to work and earn a living for herself and little 
boy. She secured a divorce and all v/as going well 
for she is such a competent woman, then (one morn- 
ing while the little boy was playing in the yard, two 
men came driving by and while one leveled a gun on 
the door of the house where the mother was at work, 
the father of the child picked him up and took him 
back to Virginia. So my poor beautiful friend was 
alone in a strange land. Later, she married a man 
much older than herself and they have two children 
but she is not happy. The west is so unkind to its 
women. I know how she longs for her southern 
home and for her first-born. It seems, with so many 
men to choose from, surely there must be some good 
husbands but I see so many failures all around me. 
With all our winter has been pleasant though. After 
the felon had given us all the trouble it could, the 
doctor concluded he would have to take the thumb 
off, so here in the wilderness I have had a little ex- 
perience in surgery. Joan was quite sure she would 
be alright if I would promise to stay with her and 
all during the time she was under the ether, she kept 
saying, "Are you there?" and when she knew I was 
she was contented. By the time it came to the tying 
of the stitches she struggled so that the doctor asked 
me to tie them while he held her and I did, so you 
see, my first experience has not unnerved me to any 
great extent. 

It was during the time she was here that we had 
our bad Indian scares. The first time a messenger 
was sent out from the Fort to warn the settlers. He 
surely warned us in a manner that strikes terror to 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 53 

my heart to recall. About mid-night, he dashed up 
to the door and yelled: "Look out for your hair, 
the Indians are coming !" and was gone. Frantic 
with fear, we bundled our sleepy youngsters up and 
started for the Fort eleven miles away, expecting 
any minute to be cut off from help and murdered. 
Well, it wasn't so bad after all. The worst feature 
being that as soon as we reached the Fort in safety, 
Joan discovered that she had left her purse, with 
quite an amount of money and some valuable rings 
in it, lying on the bed at home, so Nels turned right 
around and went back for them leaving us there in 
safety. He was not gone long and we all remained 
there for several days until the excitement had died 
away. The real cause of the alarm was that an In- 
dian, thought to be insane,had killed two white men 
down near Ross Fork, then when the sheriff came 
to make the arrest, a young man named Alex Rhoden 
pointed out the offender to the officer, and he too was 
shot, so it made a lot of feelings and a general up- 
rising was feared. 

A second time they sent out messengers from the 
Fort to rout us out of our beds and tell us to fly for 
our lives, the second time we did not fly. We just 
reasoned that we were taking more chances travel- 
ing eleven miles that hour of the night than we would 
to stay in our own home. It just seemed that if we 
were to be killed, we would be anyhow, and if not, 
why bother? 

Anyway the unpleasantness is all forgotten in the 
memory of my new friend. I shall never forget her 
patience and her fortitude. Many a woman with 
such an affliction would have considered herself an 
invalid, but not she. She helped me with the work 
in so many ways and took care of her children so 



54 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

much better than some women do who are all sound. 
Poor dear, so often in taking care of the baby, she 
would get the thumb kicked or bumped, causing her 
untold misery but she never complained. 

We have entered into a financial agreement that 
is almost causing me sleepless nights. We have 
never had a great supply of this world's goods, but 
it has always been our own. Now, we have gone 
in debt. Nels bought a beautiful, brown mare from 
a man of means at Malad, and paid, or promised to 
pay, $250.00. The note will not fall due for a year 
but I cannot be sure just where the money is coming 
from and each day I am afraid that something will 
befall her and we will be obligated to spend the rest 
of our lives "paying for a dead horse" as the saying 
goes. 

I often think of your simple little method of avoid- 
ing the credit menace in your shop. You wrote me 
once how you considered it better to give a small 
amount, explaining that the money should be 
brought next time, than to extend any credit I hope 
for my own peace of mind that we will take the 
money with us the next time we go to buy a horse. 

With love from all, 

Emma. 




AN ADDITION TO THE HOUSE AND TO THE 

FAMILY 



Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory, 
December 25, 1878. 
My dear Father : , 

/"^ HRISTMAS finds us this year with one more lit- 
^tle boy two weeks old, and a new room added to 
the two that have served us so well. Again I have 
had a morbid determination to put an end to all this 
struggling, for each year seems to bring so many 
new burdens and each year I seem a little less able 
to bear them. When I first knew there was to be 
another baby, I went to Nels and told him that I 
thought I had better drown myself and was very 
much astonished that he should disagree with me. 
There I had carefully figured out to my own satis- 
faction, thinking that perhaps he could raise the 
four, but if there were to be more and more of them, 
more than I could make clothes for and more than 
he could buy clothes for, what was the use! Some- 
way he scolded, threatened or begged until I con- 
sented to stay a little longer and we are quite happy 
now to begin another winter. 



56 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

I guess Nels concluded too that there was not 
much room for number five, so during the good 
weather he has built on a nice big room, in fact, it 
is two rooms. They set the new one with a space be- 
tween it and the original house, then filled in the 
space making a sort of hall so it really give us four 
rooms now. 

Another thing that has given us a little comfort, 
we have had a Missouri family living with us since 
September and she is very good help. I had a very 
bad sick spell in the early fall and we heard of these 
people rather by accident. He had been freighting 
and she was living at Malad so we got them to come 
here for the winter. They have one little boy and we 
let them live in one of our small rooms, so that our 
housekeeping is separate and yet she helps me when- 
ever I need it. She is a forlorn, homesick creature 
and I think her misery helps me to see the folly of 
my own ways. She is always grieving to go back to 
old Missouri and cries most every day. In fact her 
tears have become so common with us all that my 
husband offered her a quarter to laugh once. The 
offer was so ridiculous that she did laugh. Poor 
Mollie, she has enough to cry over if there was any 
hope of tears bringing a change. Her husband is 
a good deal older than she and none too kind. She 
came out here away from all her relatives to make 
a fortune, I guess, and the fortune seems very slow- 
about materializing. They must have been raised 
in the most benighted section of the south for they 
use awful English and he cannot write his own name, 
but they have had their church and their camp 
meetings and they miss all of those things. We were 
amused at her a short time ago. We butchered a 
hog the first since they had been with us, and she ex- 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 57 

claimed in the most delighted manner: "Oh, good, 
at last we shall have some meat !" We nearly always 
have fresh beef and frequently fish and game,but 
with her, pork seems to be the only thing that counts 
as meat. Well, with all her peculiarities, she is a 
good hearted person and has certainly been a bless- 
ing to me. 

My, my, I am almost forgetting to tell you about 
the baby's name. Our little Willie boy, who is now 
nearly five and very witty, bought him from this 
Mrs. Warren soon after his arrival for twenty-five 
cents and named him Charlie. I do not know just 
why that name or why his fancy for it but we all 
think it a pretty good one. 

And our Freddie boy has become quite a fisher- 
man. In fact, I almost feel that my occupation is 
gone for he is quite as successful as I, even when I 
have the time to give to it, and I seldom do these 
busy times. During the summer, it was quite a 
common thing for him to go over to the river for an 
hour or so before supper time and come back with as 
many as he could carry. 

Jimmie seems to be the worker of the flock. He is 
all business. Goes with his father to chop or shovel 
and seems to know just how to do it all. 

I believe I told you when I last wrote that we had 
contracted our first debt. Well, we paid it in six 
months instead of a year and were not obliged to 
pay any interest, but I hope we never, never buy 
another thing until we have the money to pay for it. 
I fear and despise debt and I hope that my children, 
my grandchildren and my great-grand-children will 
do the same. My first home might have been a 
happy one had it not been for debt and drink. It 
only takes one of these destroyers to wreck a home. 



58 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

But to return to the mare. Nels had wintered a lot 
of freight oxen, that is he had kept track of them for 
the owners, while they ate Uncle Sam's grass. That 
Letted him a neat sum. Then we have had some 
government contracts supplying beef to the soldiers 
at Fort Hall and that has given us quite a substantial 
lift, so the mare is paid (for and she has a beautiful, 
mare colt that is the pride of the family, so I guess, 
she was a good investment. 

I don't believe I have ever told you of the queer, 
or perhaps I should say "large" experience that we 
have had in the soap making business. During a 
period of several months, or possibly a year or two, 
of butchering, we had accumulated four hundred 
pounds of tallow. Nels hauled it to Corinne and 
could only get four cents a pound for it, so he 
brought it back and we made it all up into soap and 
candles. I don't think we will ever be out of soap. 
May have to ship you some to sell for us. 

Well, I have written away the daylight of a short 
winter afternoon and I hear a stir in the cradle 
where my tiny son lies sleeping, so good-bye for 
another time. 

Our love to you, 

Emma. 




THE WITNESS STAND 



Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory, 

March 8, 1879. 
My dear Father: 

TTERE I have been so busy relating the details of 
■" family life that I have forgotten to mention 
the coming of the railroad. When we settled here, 
my husband always said there would be a railroad 
in ten years and his prophesy has been fulfilled in 
about seven as it reached the little burg of Blackfoot 
fifteen miles from us, sometime during December. 
Now, I've had a ride on the steam cars. Would you 
believe it? And a visit to the city of Zion, the zion 
that you brought my mother six thousand miles to 
see. 

It is very changed since I saw it last in the sixties, 
but I took little note of its improvements for my 
mind was too much engrossed in the three months 
old baby in my arms and in the fact that I was the 
star witness in a murder trial. Can you imagine it, 
father? Your little Em taking such a part in the 
affairs of men. 

I did not realize that my testimony was of such 
vital importance until it was all over, then the re- 
mark of the attorney was heard to the effect that I 



60 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

was the one witness they feared, but wait, I have 
not told you. One cold night in February a very un- 
usual looking man appeared at the door and after 
making several inquiries, drew out the subpoena that 
called me as witness on the trial of Robert T. Bur- 
ton being held on the charge of murder at Salt Lake. 

In the years of our trials of homesteading, I have 
tried to forget the details most unpleasant of all 
our early experiences, the Mormon-Morrisite war. 
As I have grown more mature in judgment, I have 
realized that we poor misguided Morrisites were 
very much at fault for in defying the sheriff's posse 
as we did, we were really defying our government, 
for even though the posse was formed of the pillars 
of the Mormon church they were vested with the 
authority from Washington and we should not have 
tried to evade arrest. But this is all looking back- 
ward and I must proceed with my adventure. 

Of course, first of all, I protested that I could not 
leave my family but Nels said it was my duty to go 
and he felt sure that my memory could not fail to 
bring the guilty to justice. 

So I went but with a sinking heart! I regretted 
to leave my four boys that I had never been away 
from over night; I regretted to take my tiny infant 
among poeople where might lurk the germs of every 
dread disease; and I regretted most of all, going 
among the Mormon people. They say a burnt child 
dreads the fire, so I guess a child that has been shot 
at cannot help fearing the hand that pulled the trig- 
ger. Every foot of the way we traveled I expected 
the train would be blown off the track, for it carried 
a number of witnesses, or I expected we would be 
burned in the court room, anything to wreck the 
Mormon vengeance as I had known it. But the Mor- 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 61 

mons are changed since those days, father, they are 
a different people. 

Still, frightened as I was, when I sat in the wit- 
ness chair the old scenes came back to me as vividly 
as if they had occurred but yesterday. 

I saw the hills blackened by the approaching ene- 
my, heard the bugle call, our own beloved Morrisite 
call, that assembled us in the bowery and I knew 
again with what joy and trust I went forth expecting 
to be delivered by the hand of the Almighty. Then 
I saw a cannon ball come rushing through that 
humble gathering, fired by the waiting hordes on the 
hillside, and two of our trusting Morrisites lying 
dead in the bowery. Yes, I saw it all, father, and 
told them as only one who had seen could ever tell 
it, and the Mormons assembled there in the name of 
the law, began to fear me just as I had at first feared 
them. 

I told them of the babe in its mother's arms fall- 
ing to the ground at the boom of the first cannon 
and before the firing ceased, falling again when its 
second protector was killed. I told them of a woman, 
then in their city, who had lost the entire lower 
part of her face when the first ball was fired into 
defenseless gathering of men, women and children. 

I told them of the hoisting of the white flag by 
our terror stricken band and of the Mormon war- 
riors, less heeding than any savage tribe of the 
wilderness, continuing to fire, killing four right 
under the flag of truce. 

I told them how, on the second day, I had gone 
skipping across the public square in childish fear- 
lessness with "cannons to the right of me and can- 
nons to the left of me" to find my mother huddled in 
the little cellar under our house, white as in death, 



62 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

marking the number of cannons fired with a stick 
in the dirt. She had counted seventy-five that one 
day. Oh, father, I can see her always, poor suffering 
creature, as she took me in her arms saying: "Thank 
God, my child, you are safe." I looked at her in 
childish eagerness and dismay saying: "Why, 
mother, is your faith weakening? God will punish 
these foolish destroyers." But she only hugged me 
closer sobbing: "My child bullets will kill!" 

I told them how after three days of almost con- 
tinuous firing, they had surrounded us taking our 
men prisoners after having killed our beloved pro- 
phet, Joseph Morris. I told them how in the strug- 
gle that followed his fall, you stood by the lifeless 
form of the prophet and said to the Mormon that 
had once posed as our friend : "You've killed him, 
now you better kill me" And of his attempt to 
shoot you had his gun not refused to obey his will. 
Then I told them of the gentle creature, Mrs. Bow- 
man, who came forth during the struggle calling 
one of the leaders "A blood thirsty wretch." I told 
them how, before my childish eyes the fiend ex- 
claimed: "No woman shall call me that and live." 
and suiting the action to the word, he shot her down. 

And so after all these years, I was the instrument 
to avenge these wrongs to what mild extent it could 
ever be done. I was in the witness chair and my 
word would send to the gallows the murderer of 
that poor woman. 

After questioning me sufficiently, they asked me 
to look around the court room and see if I recognized 
anyone. Did I? Well, I certainly did, just as I 
would recognize you, my own father, after all these 
years of separation. There he sat with his same 
flowing beard and gleaming eyes. His face had been 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 63 

the one thing that I could see distinctly all during 
my examination, as it had looked when I saw him 
years before and as it looked then. I think it had 
really served to bring the scenes before me more 
vividly as I recounted the details, particularly when 
it had come to the point of his pulling me roughly 
away from the body of Joseph Morris just after I 
had seen him slay Mrs. Bowman, but at this point 
my memory only served to set him free. You father, 
no doubt would have remembered correctly, but the 
two leaders, Stoddard and Burton, had always been 
pointed out to me together and just as sometimes 
will occur, I had transposed the names, and the guil- 
ty man that I saw before me was the one I had al- 
ways believed to be Stoddard. It so happened that 
the man Stoddard had been dead a good many years, 
so my testimony simply laid all the crimes on to the 
dead man and set free the criminal before me. So 
ignorant was I of courts and counsels, and so de- 
pendent upon my childish recollections, that it never 
occured to me there was any chance for mistake until 
I had killed my own evidence. 

Anyway, I was glad to be through with it and be 
free to come back to my little boys and my home. I 
had been gone for two weeks and had never 
heard a word for each day they expected I would be 
back. Each day Nels had sent a team to meet me 
only to find a letter saying the trial dragged on. I 
guess it seemed long to them but it was surely an 
eternity to me, and I have never smelled anything 
so sweet as the sage brush that crushed under the 
wheels that night when they brought me home. It 
was a mild spring night and had been raining so 
that everything was fresh and pure in such con- 
trast from the coal smoke I had been obliged to 



64 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

breathe. I found everyone well though the children 
had been sick during my absence and we were a 
happy family indeed to be re-united. I think that 
home coming will always stand out as one of the 
happiest times of my life and in spite of my failure 
as a "star witness" I hope this letter will carry to 
you a portion of the contentment that is in my heart. 

Always the same, 

Emma. 



THE COMING OF THE LONDONERS 




Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory, 

June 3, 1879. 

My dear Father: 

TVTEXT TO seeing you, 
•*• M cannot think of 
anything that could have 
given us greater pleas- 
es ure than to welcome the 
two splendid young men, 
Arthur and Lewis Jud- 
ges, that you sent to us. 
Such an event to have 
two nifty Londoners ar- 
rive at the humble dwell- 
ing of the Justs on the far away Blackfoot. If 
they had but waited to get our letter of instructions 
they might have been a little better prepared to meet 
the conditions that now confront them, but they have 
such a wealth of enthusiasm that such things as 
suitable wearing apparel are really minor considera- 
tions. I must say though, that even amid my joy 
at seeing them, there was an under current of regret 
that our home is so dull and dirty. I guess woman 
was ever thus, but I seem to be spending my life 
waging war against dirt and yet it is everywhere I 
look. But it is the boys I want to tell you about. 
Surely you did not know what an amount of arms 
and amunition they burdened themselves with. Such 
a picture they presented when the liveryman 
dropped them down at the door, dressed in the 
styles of the old world and then, duly protected 



66 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

against beast and savage by every known make of 
fire-arm. Tis well that we have a Post near us for 
I imagine that in a very few weeks they will have 
many army supplies to dispose of. 

Fortune favored them, for in a day or two after 
they came, a young man who works for us came 
driving a bear up to the corral. Their plan was to 
butcher it in a most dignified manner, after getting 
it gently into captivity, but the new-comers rushed 
out and frightened the poor beast so he trotted up 
above the house and they over-took and killed him. 
We rarely see one these days and certainly are not 
often on such familiar terms with them but I think 
this one must have put in his timely appearance 
just to give the boys something to try their guns on. 

We've had another experience, too since they came, 
that almost proved the death of me, that is, if humi- 
lation ever does kill. I began to cut the boys' hair, 
you know, of course, that I am the family barber, 
and the first one I looked at was lousy! ThfriK of 
my children being lousy! I called in another one 
and he was lousy, and then their father, and he was 
lousy, and I didn't know what to do. I had never 
seen a head louse since the early days in Utah when 
the school children all had them and I remember 
how horrified my mother was when she found them 
on me. She thought it was the worst disgrace im- 
aginable because in England only beggars had such 
things. Now in our home we were over run with 
them just at the time we most desired to be clean 
and respectable. I begged them all not to mention 
it to the Judges boys for I knew it would be the one 
thing they could not forgive. 

We held a family council and decided that the 
young man who had come to work for us had 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 67 

brought them to us, so we called him in to have his 
hair cut, but neither louse nor nit was to be found 
in his head. Then they all washed with strong 
home-made lye soap and we hoped we would be rid 
of them. All promised well until my husband in- 
sisted that the Judges boys be told of it, said it was 
their right to know for they might catch them. The 
children were having a lot of fun over the discovery. 
They thought the little creatures very interesting 
and it was very hard to keep the matter hushed so 
finally it all came out and the immaculate English- 
men decided to have a turn at the hair cutting. 
Poor fellows, their equipment for the wilds had not 
been sufficient to protect them from everything; 
they had more than anyone, lice and nits of every 
description. In the fair haired boy's head, the lice 
were light colored, and in his brother's they were 
dark and it was evident that they had brought them 
to the ranch for they had more than anyone. We 
supposed they had picked them up on the ship or on 
the train, but they, of course, had never seen such 
a thing. So we are rid of them now I think and the 
tenderfoot boys are becoming westernized. 

Some things are so hard for them to understand, 
the dryness of our air and sunshine is one. I had 
washed a few things for them one very warm day, 
and as I gathered the clothes in early in the after- 
noon, I folded their night shirts, rough dry, and put 
them in their room. That evening, Lewis came out 
and said: "My word Mrs., I would not dare wear 
this night shirt, in England we would not think of 
wearing our clothes without they were properly 
aired." I didn't laugh, honest I didn't, but I did 
want to ask him what he called that stuff that was 
circulating around our clothes line all day, if not air. 



68 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

They are such fine chaps though and they will learn 
some day that whatever else we may be short of, 
we have great quantities of air and sunshine. 

They will stay with us until they make some defi- 
nite plans for themselves. Our Missouri family 
moved away this spring so it leaves me the burden of 
work again. Arthur is just like a girl having done 
nothing but indoor work and he is very handy about 
helping me in the kitchen. He is also starting a gar- 
den and my little boys are so taken up with him. 

Baby Charlie is growing and well and he joins the 
rest of us in sending his love to his far away grand- 
father. 

Your 

Emma, 



A TRAGEDY 




Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory, 

December 6, 1879. 

Dear Father: 

UR BEAUTIFUL 

baby boy was so 
terribly burned a 
few weeks ago 
and I hoped by 
waiting I might 
be able to write 
you that his little 
features are not 
badly marred, but 
sometimes I feel there is no hope. He was sitting 
in his high chair, near the stove, and I had a coal oil 
can of water heating , so I could not see the baby 
from where I stood and by some means the chair 
in which he was sitting tipped over throwing him on 
top of the hottest part of the stove. He struck his 
face on the side and then slipped so that the skin was 
just simply taken off the whole side of his face and 
the inside of one little hand that reached out to try 
and save himself. For two hours he screamed with us 
walking up and down the floor with him, the only 
thing that we could do until the doctor was sent for 
by messenger eleven miles away. Finally he went 
to sleep and the left eye swelled so that we never ex- 
pected that he would open it again. Of course, it 
was very little that we could see when he was in 
such agony, but we felt sure the eye ball was so 



70 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

injured that sight would be destroyed. The doctor 
came and dressed the burns once and since then I 
have taken care of them myself but the poor little 
mite has suffered terribly. He was such a good 
baby and his features all so perfectly formed, you 
know what a beauty he is in the little picture I sent 
after we came from Salt Lake, it seems such a pity 
that he must grow into manhood scarred because 
of his parent's carelessness. The eye is all right 
but at the corner by the temple the lid droops and 
there seems to be the deepest scar but everyone 
thinks that because of his being so young much of 
it will grow away. 

I suppose we should be thankful that we have been 
so fortunate thus far with our family, no broken 
bones and only the one seriously sick, but the thing 
that hurts us most with this, we shall always feel 
that it should have been avoided. As in all accidents, 
no one knows just how this happened but there must 
have been something under one leg of the high chair 
so that it did not set level for it was never known 
to tip over. Really the chair is quite the pride of the 
household. Grandfather Just made it for Jimmie 
and it has the sturdiest look asr if it would protect 
a baby from anything. The legs are well apart so 
the base is wide and it seems the next thing to im- 
possible to upset it, besides, it has helped a great 
deal in bringing three boy babies safely to little 
boyhood and we cannot understand how it happened 
to fail us with the fourth. 

You will be anxious to hear from the Judges boys, 
I know. Arthur is still with us and will teach the 
boys this winter. They will work in forenoons and 
then have school in the afternoons. It is a very 
happy arrangement for us all and the boys are eager 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 71 

to begin. Lewis tried several things, among them 
cowboying, and had his face so blistered that he 
scarcely knew himself. It was evident to us that he 
had been too long an indoor man to make a success 
of any sort of rough work so we persuaded him to go 
to Salt Lake and try and find employment. That is 
the nearest point where a book keeper could be sure 
of finding work, but he was loathe to go because of 
the Mormons. He said : "Drat them, I won't work 
for them," but he knew that our advice was for his 
good so he finally swallowed his prejudices and went. 
I wonder, father, if you are responsible for his ana- 
mosity toward the Mormons? He is surely very 
bitter but if nothing else he will find their money 
quite acceptable and I am sure they will find his 
services the same for good office men are not easy 
to find even in Salt Lake and the Mormons are 
obliged to secure much of their help from among the 
Gentiles for their converts are mostly from the un- 
educated classes. Still the Mormon people as a class 
have made great strides forward since you knew 
them and when you come back, which I hope will be 
very soon, you will not recognize them. 

We have instituted a system of starting the boys 
in the cattle business. Each is to be given a heifer 
calf when he is ten years old, then he owns the 
herd that will accumulate and he will feed them. We 
also pay them a certain amount for such chores as 
they are able to do, milking, wood chopping, churn- 
ing and such things, then they buy their shoes or 
something that they need with the money. We hope 
it will teach them something of the value of money 
but it is hard to tell just what to do to be sure of 
making good useful citizens of them. 



72 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

Fred has had a saddle pony of his own for some 
time and he adores spurs, bridles, saddles and all 
that pertains to horses and the stock business in 
general. 

I must go now and look after my poor little suf- 
fering infant. 

With our love, 

Emma. 




A NEIGHBORHOOD WEDDING 



Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory, 

June 1, 1880. 
My dear Father: 

rpHE WINTER passed rather more pleasantly 
■*■ than usual. The boys were so interested in their 
first school, the baby's scars are becoming dimmer 
each day and everything seems to be running very 
smoothly. 

For real winter diversion, we had a wedding. Our 
neighbor, Mr. Burrell, who has long been a confirmed 
bachelor, took unto himself a wife on New Year's 
day. They came by in what seemed to us. grand 
style, four horses and a hired driver brought them 
up from Blackfoot where the ceremony had been 
performed. The bride comes from the States but 
has been in the Malad country some time nursing 
She is much younger than Mr. Burrell but had been 
married before. Nels is not on good terms with Mr. 
Burrell, they have had difficulty over lines, and cat- 
tle, in fact, most everything, so I have not been there, 
but Arthur Judges visits them and tells me about 
her. She is very lonely as I can well imagine, with 
only one neighbor and she not allowed to visit. 
Well she and I cannot quarrel as our husbands do if 
we never meet. 



74 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

I tell you so many of our troubles that I sometimes 
wonder if I give you the impression that we have 
nothing pleasant to record. We surely have. One 
of the great events is our yearly pilgrimage to the 
Stevens ranch. Of course they only live about 
twenty miles away but there is always something to 
be done, cows to milk, butter to churn, etc., and to 
neglect them might mean starvation, so only about 
once a year do we all don our best clothes and go 
there to stay over night or perhaps two. The child- 
ren look upon that trip as sort of a combination of 
Christmas, Fourth of July and picnic. I guess I 
have failed to tell you that there are four Stevens 
children now. The second, a girl named Emma for 
me, then a son, Jimmie and a baby girl, Abbie. They 
usually visit us about once a year, too, so that the 
children keep well acquainted. Her Fred and my 
Fred also write occassionly. Oh, yes, you spoke 
of our Fred's penmanship. Isn't it remarkable? 
Why when he was nine years old he could write so 
much better than I that I refused to write copies 
for him. Does it ever seem to you that such a thing 
as penmanship could be hereditary? I do not believe 
much in hereditary but I do not know how else to 
account for his gift. You know what a wonderful 
artist his father was in that line. Why I have sat 
entranced, watching him write out the great long 
muster rolls in the army and the motion of his pen 
was like the strokes of an artist's brush. That 
father never saw the boy since he was five weeks 
old, yet here he is writing with everything and on 
everything, imitating every new hand writing and 
at the same time developing one of his own that 
positively resembles his father's even now. 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 75 

There is another form of diversion we enjoy dur- 
ing the pleasant weather. Early some Sunday morn- 
ing we drive over to Sand Creek, about five miles, 
and camp. The ducks are plentiful there and while 
Nels russels enough for dinner I give the boys each 
a hair cut, then they bathe in the creek, put on clean 
clothes and we come home at night, refreshed and 
ready for work again. 

We do not raise much yet so that the cattle are 
about our only income. Of course the garden helps 
and we raise enough potatoes to last us through the 
winter. We have planted a few acres of alfalfa, or 
lucern as we prefer to call it, but it did not yield 
very well and the grass hoppers played havoc with 
what did grow. The water is still the big problem 
and Nels is always planning and working to get the 
water on a larger acreage. Most of our land can be 
irrigated in time but it is too big a job for one man 
in one life time. He has had to hire some help al- 
ready and the ditch they have dug is only a sort of 
an experiment. We have siet out a few fruit trees 
with the hope that we can get water enough to them 
to keep them alive. Our old friend Billie Jones of 
Ogden sent them up after seeing me in Salt Lake at 
the trial. Even a fruit tree that may never bear 
looks a little bit more like civilization. 

Sometimes it seems like a terrible struggle and 
we wonder if it is worth while then again we feel 
full of courage that we will win in time. Once Nels 
was ready to move to Montana and give it up but I 
persuaded him to stay on a little longer and I don't 
think he has ever regretted it. A spot that isi none 
too fertile but that is home is better then beginning 
a life-long search for the "promised land." Once a 
traveler stayed over night and looking over the sit- 



76 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

uation said : "Why don't you folks go back to Miss- 
ouri where you can raise something?" One of us 
made answer that we were afraid we couldn't make 
a living. "Pshaw!" he said, "anyone that can make 
a living here, can any place." So we are none too 
prosperous but we owe no man and we are here first 
so whatever opportunities a new country has to offer 
we are here to accept. 

My duty calls me so with fondest love, I must say 
good-by, 

Emma. 




■^mm]{ 



WHEN DEATH COMES 



Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory, 

March 15, 1881. 
My dear Father: 

cannot tell you when I wrote to you last but it 
•*■ must seem very long indeed to one waiting in lov- 
ing anxiety. I do know, however, that for a year now 
life has been sort of a cruel nightmare to me and 
I had no desire to share my trials with you. Some- 
times I have thought that the worst must be over, 
that our lives would be easier for the rest of the 
journey, but I know now that the past year has been 
the hardest of our experience and I do not seem able 
to rise above it. I am broken in health and my mind 
is a mass of chaos. Five little boys are hourly need- 
ing my attention and I haven't the strength to 
give them any. Day after day they go with buttons 
missing and faces unwashed and I can only look on 
in despair. 

You see, last April we were expecting a baby 
and were again confronted with the problem of se- 
curing help, so late in the winter Nels happened to 
run across a young woman at Blackfoot who was in 
need of a home and thought we could manage to 
help each other. She had a young baby and was 



78 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

living with relatives, her husband having left her 
rather mysteriously soon after their marriage. All 
promised well enough but she was young and inex- 
perienced and with the baby to care for, so I soon 
found that instead of help, I simply had two more 
added to my family. It was not long though until a 
strange man appeared at the door way to claim a 
wife and baby and explain that he had been terribly 
sick some place away off the railroad and had not 
been able to write to her. They were soon a re- 
united family and after she did up his accumulated 
washing and gathered up her few belongings, they 
started out for themselves. 

By that time we were getting in desperate need of 
help so we sent up Snake River, to a place called 
Conant Valley, for the Missouri couple that had 
been with us before. They came as soon as weather 
and road conditions would permit, but our children 
had already begun to fall sick. At first we thought 
it some simple malady but they seemed to have such 
terrible sore throats, so we finally called a doctor 
from Fort Hall, and horror of horrors, he told us 
we had scarlet fever of the most malignant type 
and emphasised his decision by saying he would 
much rather his children have the small-pox. We 
never go anywhere to expose the children to disease 
so we knew it had been brought to us by the father 
of the baby, for our boy that had taken a special 
fancy to him was the first to take sick and the last 
to get well. I remembered too that while his wife 
was doing his washing there was a most peculiar 
odor rising from the tub. 

So for three weeks preceding my confinement, we 
had six children down at once, five of ours and one 
of the Warrens who had come to help us. Twenty 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 79 

nights I took my turn sitting up half the night, then 
when I knew that I, too, must soon be a care, J 
finished out the night. And the next day, just across 
the hall from my little boys moaning in their delir- 
ium, I gave birth to twin girls. We had an old Mid- 
wife and she gave us the best care she could, but it 
was poor enough and I think both the babies and 
myself had the fever. The doctor told me I 
would take it but I was determined to stay with the 
boys until the last. Somehow we all struggled 
through but the babies were always puny. One 
weighed six and one seven pounds at birth but they 
never gained the way they should. I did not have 
enough milk for both so gave them part cow's milk 
and the hot weather was too much for their feeble 
little bodies, so in September they both died, just 
five days apart. We had named them Finetta and 
Heneage for my two best friends and they lie buried 
on the bench that rises north of the house, just far 
enough over the brow of the hill so I cannot see the 
graves from the door. Their little coffins had to be 
made of what materials we could find for we have 
been at such an expense. Some of the time we have 
kept help in the house but my Fred boy has been 
my one faithful helper through it all. It does not 
seem fair to burden one so young with such a weight 
of cares but there seems to be no other way. 

During the life of the babies, I slept with both of 
them and with little Charlie, who has just past two, 
and Francis in a trundle bed by the side of me. Nels 
felt that he could not be robbed of his rest or he 
would be unable to carry on his work, so for the five 
months I had the care of the four and I never knew 
what it was to sleep two hours at a time. Then 
when I could see the first one failing I was recon- « 



80 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

ciled that she must go but I was sure that we would 
raise the other, and even after she died, the children 
and I consoled each other that the cradle was not 
empty as it would be in most homes when a baby 
had died. But when the second one had to go, all 
that I had borne during the months seemed to crush 
me. When I looked at her little dead face I wanted 
to scream and run away from it all, then just when 
I would have broken down, Nels put his hand on 
my shoulder and said : "Bear up, Emma, for my 
sake." Bear up, I surely did. For weeks and 
weekte) I never slept a night and everyone feared I 
was losing my mind. It seemed to me that I had no 
mind to lose. Nels would take me for long rides in 
the buggy or on horse back, miles and miles and 
miles to try to tire me so I would sleep but the 
nerves that had been strained so long would not let 
go. I have seen him hold a ticking watch at my ear 
for two hours at a time with the hope that the mon- 
otony would bring me sleep and rest, but sleep was, 
or seemed to be, out of the question and all the time 
I had never shed a tear over the loss of my darling 
babies. Oh, father those dreadful weeks are too 
terrible to recount. 

I am better now. That is, I am sleeping better, 
but the reason is that there is to be another baby. 
It must be Nature's way of bringing me rest but it 
seems like a very queer way. I shall be glad to have 
my poor empty arms filled again, the spirit is willing 
but the flesh is so faltering. When I look at my five 
poor little neglected boys, I wonder why nature does- 
n't see fit to send them another and more able mother 
instead of sending me another baby. Here am I 
who was once able to do work for others and bring 
in money, unable to care for my own house and child- 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 81 

ren. I must not trouble you longer, father dear. I 
think I am really glad now that you live so far away 
you have been spared much. 

With our love, 

Emma* 




ANOTHER LITTLE GRAVE. 



Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory, 

December 12, 1882. 
My dear Father : 

T'VE HAD another promise of a daughter — only 
■*-a promise and I have but an empty cardie and an 
aching heart to remind me of the hope. 

Somehow I dragged through the weary months 
of summer but about a month before we expected 
the baby I realized that something terrible 
was wrong. I had not over-exercised nor over-wor- 
ried but I knew that the life had gone from the 
body beneath my heart. I knew that my own body 
that had been a temple where reposed a precious 
life, had suddenly and mysteriously been trans- 
formed into a morgue, And Oh, the grewsomeness 
of that certainty! 

I told Nels of my fears but I could not convince 
him that it was anything but "Woman's imagina- 
tion." I begged him to call a doctor but he did not 
see any need of it. I guess I should not blame him 
for how can any one but a mother know what a dif- 
ference there is between a living child, with its sen- 
sitive little muscular body responding to her every 
emotion, and the leaden weight of a child that no 
longer moves. To him duty is everything and he 



84 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

strives to do his full duty but there are times when 
a little tenderness would count for so much more, 
and his indifference at this time I feel was one of 
the cruelest blows he has ever dealt me. Days that 
seemed as long as years followed one after another 
and I waited and worried. Finally he began to feel 
alarmed and called a doctor. Of course, the doctor 
confirmed my belief. Told us just how long the 
baby had been dead and when I could exepect my 
delivery. After that I waited again but I did not 
worry so much. To know the worst is better than 
uncertainty, and I knew that it was going to be a 
fight for my life and I must prepare to meet it 
bravely. 

Just at the time the doctor had specified, I was 
taken sick and the baby, a little girl, was born with- 
in a few hours. I never even looked at her for I 
needed every atom of strength and courage to aid 
my recovery. They buried her immediately beside 
the other two, so I have three little girls, but they 
are all "gone before." 

The much feared complications from such an ex- 
perience, never came, and I am in as good health 
as I have been for some time but if I could petition 
the Powers-that-be I should say, "Spare me from 
another "still birth." Surely it is enough to ask a 
mother to put her life in the balance for the sake of 
another life, but to suffer the same agonies and only 
be rewarded by another little grave, is unbearable. 

I have this one consolation now, however. I have 
nothing to fear in the years that are to come. I 
can rest in the assurance that life has nothing worse 
in store for me than it has already handed out. 
Within two short years we have had three births 
and three deaths. Disease has laid us all low and 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 85 

robbed me of the strength of my young womanhood. 
I can surely stand anything after what I have been 
through. 

I have help in the house now, a very good girl, 
though only fifteen years old, and she is good com- 
pany for me, too. Our family is large this winter, 
we have a cowboy boarding here and Nels has a 
miner named Frank Gary helping him with the roc'k 
work on his ditch. In order to get water on a large 
portion of our land a ditch must be taken from the 
river half a mile farther up, then a bluff, or out- 
cropping of lava lies diectly in its course. That 
must all be blasted away. These bluffs occur at 
regular intervals all down the widening river valley, 
one near the house we have used for the north side 
of the corral. So one proved very useful and the 
other has to be removed by a slow and laborous pro- 
cess. 

This Mr. Gary is also quite intellectual and is 
continuing the boys' schooling in the evenings, so 
all promises well for pleasant winter after the tur- 
bulent seasons that have passed into history. 

With our love, 

Emma. 




THE FIRST CIRCUS. 



Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory, 

September 4, 1884. 
My dear Father : 

YV7HEN the weeks and months pass by rather un- 
™ eventfully I grow careless about writing and the 
first thing I know a year has passed. I am glad that 
your letters to me come more regularly for what 
could I do without them ? 

I know you will rejoice when I tell you the young- 
ters have been to a circus. The first one that came 
through the country stopped at Eagle Rock and we 
all went to see it, that is Nels took us up and 
we made a little camp just outside the town and he 
stayed with the team while the children and I went 
in. He imagined that the horses might get fright- 
ened of some of the animals and get away from us. 
I really do not think he cared to go anyway. We've 
lived in the silent places so long that it is very hard 
to adjust ourselves to noise and crowds. A crowd 
there certainly was ! Hundreds of people from hun- 
dreds of miles around ! There was a time when we 



88 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

knew most everyone in this part of the valley but 
the settlers have come so fast since the railroad got 
here that we cannot keep track of them. I was not 
able to enjoy myself much as I was so afraid of an 
accident, but five small boys had the time of their 
lives. Fred got away from the bunch and caused me a 
great deal of anxiety, but during the performance, 
a clown did something funny trying to imitate one of 
the others, and just as Mr. Clown fell, I heard Fred 
laugh away up on one of the highest seats. A circus 
costs a lot of money for a family the size of ours but 
it was worth it to see how happy the boys were. 

I am glad you asked about the Judges boys. I 
believe I told you that Lewis went to Salt Lake City. 
He had no trouble to get a good position there and 
soon was installed in the Z.C.M.I., which is really 
a mercantile establishment conducted by the Mor- 
mon church. He soon married a Mormon girl, too, 
so his extreme prejudices were forgotten. Arthur 
went from here to the Stevens ranch but has left 
much of his London learning with the boys. He 
taught both their heads and their hands. He was 
such a wonderful gardener! Why, he raised toma- 
toes and other tender vegetables such as we imagined 
belonged to tropical climes. It begins to look as if 
we had been so busy making a living we have never 
found out what a wonderful country this is. 

Once while Arthur was here he borrowed a cata- 
logue from our new neighbor, Mrs. Burrell, and we 
send there for almost everything we use. Prices are 
so moderate and the joy of ordering and receiving 
goods right in your own home are not to be over- 
looked. The boys are just about beside themselves 
with joy when a bill of goods arrives from Mont- 
gomery Ward. 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 89 

Another source from whence comes our earthly 
goods is an Irish peddler who makes yearly trips 
through the country. Besides the goods that he sells 
he holds us spell bound until far into the night tell- 
ing us of his travels. He has been everywhere and 
is a good talker so we watch eagerly for his visits. 
He usually plans to spend Easter with us and he is 
as welcome as the spring itself. 

I must tell you, too, that I have met Mrs. Burrell. 
After she had lived within a mile of us for more 
than a year, she came down one morning to tell us 
that a deserter had been seen in their field. He had 
gotten away from the camp at Ft. Hall and she 
knew that the searchers were here. I've also met her 
since at Mrs. Warren's. Guess I've never told you 
that the Warrens finally located on the river above 
Mr. Burrell's. So even though Mrs. Burrell and I 
do not visit, in deference to our husbands, we each 
have a friend in Mrs. Warren: Often when my 
work is done, I take a horse and go for a delicious 
little ride up there about two miles, and after a few 
minutes talk with her come back refreshed and 
happy. 

The boys are getting to be more and more help to 
me. Fred has recently taken over the washing for 
men that happen to be here. He buys the soap from 
me and they pay him a small amount for washing 
so he has a little profit besides taking that much 
work from me. They're good boys but I wish they 
would not quarrel so much. I tell Nels I know that 
other people's children don't quarrel so much as ours, 
but he thinks I am mistaken. Why, ours even 
quarrel after they are in bed when there is nothing 
to do but sleep. One time I was so desperate with 
it all that I rushed in to Nels and woke him up to 



90 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

tell him I wished he would get up and let them yell 
"Dad, Dad" a while, for it had been "Ma this, and 
Ma that" until I was nearly frantic. He woke up 
startled and said: "Why Emma, you'd be out of 
luck if they couldn't yell ma." Of course I cried, 
the only thing there was left to do and I always felt 
it was a just rebuke. Surely the knowledge of the 
little graves up on the hill should make me kind to 
the ones I have left. 

Another time when I had been tried to the limit 
of endurance, I concluded to send Fred away from 
home, so I packed up his few belongings and started 
him down the road. Of course, I kept hoping he 
would come back soon and he did very penitently. 
Raising boys is certainly a problem. This leaves us 
well though, and small matters of disposition do 
not matter so much. 

With love, 
Emma. 




ANOTHER LITTLE SISTER. 



Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory, 

August 8, 1885. 



Dear Father: 



"V7"ES, there has been another little sister at our 
■*- house, just loaned to us for a few weeks, then 
taken away to join the other little sisters who are 
never to grow up. I do not see why it had to be for 
her chances seemed to be so much better for life and 
health, but I am beginning to feel that we are never 
to have a sister for our boys. Five boys and never a 
sister for them! It seems to me that I have but 
two wishes: one is to have you safely back to Am- 
erica and the other is to raise a daughter. Always 
I keep hoping but the years go by and neither pray- 
er is granted. The boys are almost men now and nc 
one knows what a power for good a little sister 
would be in their lives. 

This one was born when it was summer, June 
sixth, and we had good help. The country is full 
of help now. There is no more dread of being alone 



92 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

with sickness. Several Scotch families have moved 
in from the mining towns in Utah and there are two 
lovely girls named Mackie that take turns helping 
me, then a woman of much experience was here to 
take care of the baby. She was very kind to me and 
I felt that all would surely be well this time. The 
baby, too, seemed perfectly normal at birth, she was 
such a darling and looked as if her eyes were going 
to be blue, but by the time I was able to be up and 
around, I fancied that she was not gaining as she 
should, then she seemed to just fade away. Each 
day the change would be so slight that no one else 
could notice it and I felt it rather than saw it my- 
self, then the day she was four weeks old she died. 

I shall never forget Lizzie's kindness to me. It 
was the fourth of July and a young man had come 
to take her to a celebration. I hated to ask her to 
stay but I knew the baby was failing fast. She 
stayed gladly enough and it was only a few hours 
until the tiny life passed out. We had named her 
Frances Ella, so my mother really has a little name 
sake, and the Ella was given because of a very dear 
friend we have had in recent years, a friend that 
came here often from the little town of Blackfoot 
and laughed with us or cried with us as the mood 
suited. She was a wonderful girl but she too has 
gone, back to her home in Illinois. 

I guess that one can even become accustomed to 
death. It is beginning to seem that way with me. I 
am not in the terrible broken down condition that I 
was at the death of the other babies, anyway. My 
health is very much better, of course, than it was 
at that time, and this has been the longest rest I've 
had between birthdays. I do not dread the coming 
of another though when I have lost one. Gladly 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 93 

would I have one the next day after one has been 
taken away. Nobody knows what the loss of a baby 
means to a mother. Every minute of the day and 
of the night I miss her. Nels and the boys come 
in and look at the empty cradle with a pang, but 
when they go out, they forget while my loneliness 
is always with me. 

My Fred boy has been working away from home 
now some for two summers. He is herding horses 
now for the Stevens people. Gets fifteen dollars a 
month and he put his first three months' earnings 
into a saddle. I am not sure that he is going to be 
any better at saving money than his father was, but 
I guess we should not expect our children to be better 
than their parents in all respects. If he will only 
keep away from strong drink I think I can stand 
most anything else, still I must admit that I was 
very much shocked a short time ago when I heard 
him use his first swear word. I do not mean to infer 
that it was really his first, most boys sound such 
forbidden words before they are sixteen years old, 
but it was the first time I had heard him and I 
almost fell over. His one desire is to be a cowboy 
and I may as well be willing. He does not take to 
ranch work the way Jim does and I guess I should 
feel very well satisfied that he has stayed with his 
step father this long. I am not sure though that 
parents are ever satisfied. I fear we all expect too 
much. 

We've had one of Nels* brothers with us since I 
wrote last, Peter, the youngest one. He came riding 
up, all unannounced, and asked if Nels Just lived 
here. I said: "Yes," and walking a little closer to 
the horse, added, "and you're a Just too." He smiled 
an awful broad smile and said he did not see how 



94 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

I could tell. Of course, I had never seen him but I 
knew him from his resemblance to his mother and 
you know, I had seen her twenty years ago in Soda 
Springs. He stayed with us several months and 
their father came down from Montana to see us 
while he was here. The father and mother have 
long lived apart so Peter went back to his mother 
in Nebraska. 

Must close with the hope that the years will soon 
be bringing you to 

Your Emma. 




WHAT CIVILIZATION MEANS 



Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory, 

February 1, 1886. 
Dear Father : 

|"N THE days when we first located here, I used to 
■*■ sigh for the things of civilization. I thought it 
would surely be a joy to be able to purchase the 
necessities of life without traveling for days and 
days. I thought it would bring better schools for 
our children, better care for our sickness, in fact, 
better everything. But I find it is like everything 
viewed from a distance, it is not at all what I ex- 
pected. True we have a few little towns that have 
sprung up along the railroad, where they sell dry 
goods in very small quantities and wet goods in very 
large quantities. Once we had only space and sun- 
shine, now a thousand temptations appear for my 
growing boys. 

We've had some of the evils of intemperance 
brought to our door recently and it makes me won- 
der if I am someday to find myself the mother of a 
drunkard. There had been a Captain Baker sta- 
tioned here at Ft. Hall for a time and later removed 
to Ft. Douglas. He had friends here and some prop- 
erty, so he came up on a visit and began drinking 
and gambling at the little town of Blackfoot. I 
don't know just how long it had been going on but 



96 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

Nels happened to be in town one day and a mutual 
friend suggested that he bring the Captain home 
with him to try and sober him up. So on the pre- 
tense of buying some of his horses, Nels brought 
him home. Poor, miserable piece of humanity ! The 
night before he had made out checks to the amount 
of fourteen hundred dollars to pay his gambling 
debts and after he began to get back his reason Nels 
offered to go and stop payment on the checks, but 
being a thoroughbred, he declined the offer saying : 
"If I was fool enough to write the checks, I can at 
least be man enough to pay them.' , He stayed 
with us several days sick in body and in mind and 
we did everything we could for him for we realized 
that he was the kind that was worth saving. He 
was a trusted officer in the Rebellion, a man of much 
learning and refinement, yet he had gone to the low- 
est depths. One of the many interesting experiences 
that he related was the capture of Wilkes Booth, 
who had murdered our beloved Lincoln. He was a 
sergeant of the squad that overpowered him. 

We do not know that he has mended his ways, but 
he left here the most grateful person you ever saw 
and he has shown his appreciation by sending us 
loads of reading matter, magazines and papers from 
all parts of the world, and then at Christmas time 
such a wonderful gift. It it a breast pin, I guess, 
but very large, and was made to order by Joslin and 
Park, the leading jewelers of Salt Lake. The design 
is a sword with the belt, straps and buckles, all com- 
plete in gold, of course, but so perfectly engraved 
that you forget it. The first thought is that it is 
large and clumsy but the more you look at the fine 
workmanship the more of a prize it becomes and it 
seems such a fitting gift from a Captain to the wife 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 97 

of a soldier. Nels has always been a trifle jealous 
of my enthusiasm for things military, but his love 
of the beautiful is so strong that pettiness is for- 
gotten and he joins me in gratitude for this wonder- 
ful gift. I just believe that when you come back 
from England I will meet you at the gate with the 
little green velvet box for I am so proud of my one 
piece of jewelry. 

I wonder, sometimes, whether I am as thankful as 
I should be for having a husband that does not drink. 
When we were married it seemed to me that all 
other faults were as nothing compared with that 
one great fault and if Nels would not drink I could 
forgive everything else, but pshaw! of what value 
are such promises to ourselves? Now that he has 
proven all that I expected in that one particular, I 
find that I would like him to be different in a thous- 
and other ways. Why, I want him to always be 
kind and always be thoughtful! It does not seem 
like it is asking much either, but he isn't always 
kind and sometimes we quarrel over trifles and 
make our lives very miserable. Why must folks go 
on doing what they know is wrong, else why should 
they strive to do better? It may be that I expect too 
much, for the men of your generation, father, kicked 
their wives about when the occassion demanded and 
the poor wives felt lucky if they did not get a down 
right thrashing, but here I am pining because of a 
few cross words. It has always been my boast that 
we have never disagreed on the three big issues of 
life; religion, whiskey and the children, but every- 
thing else under the sun has given us material for 
argument. Then after arguing for a while we 
quarrel, then say ugly things and I cry and Nels 
goes away disgusted with me and with life in 
general. 



98 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

We have never had any difficulties over other 
women, but Nels is not the lovelorn youth that I 
married. I overheard him once telling a young 
man that he had to lie to a woman to get her and I 
wondered how much of the love he professed for 
me had been just to "get me." I was scrubbing the 
floor at the time and I added a lot of tears to the 
scrubbing water. And such is life. 

Why burden you with matrimonial difficulties, 
you've had your share and you will rejoice with us 
that we are all well and prospering, so what else 
matters ? 

With love, 
Emma. 



A LITTLE SISTER. 




Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory, 

February 1, 1887. 

My dear Father : 

f* AN YOU believe it, we have 
^ a tiny baby at our house, 
a girl baby? She was born 
last September but I never had 
the courage to write the good 
news to you for fear, well, for 
fear that before the letter 
could make its long journey to 
you, our joy would again be 
turned to mourning. I have been obsessed with the 
feeling that I was never to raise a girl that I hardly 
dare take my eyes off this little mite lest something 
will befall her. 

Now she has been with us nearly five months and 
seems as healthy as a child can be so perhaps I am 
to keep her after all. Perhaps I am to raise her to 
be a useful woman, a companion to me in my later 
life when some of the struggle and hardships are 
past. In the last few years I have maintained a 
sort of training school for girls and I find plenty of 
mistakes that other mothers have made in the train- 
ing of their girls, now I shall have a chance to try 
on my own. I have had sixteen year old girls come 
to help me, grown young women and perhaps con- 
templating matrimony, who could not make an apron 
or a batch of bread. What were their mothers 
thinking of to raise girls that do not know how to 



100 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

do the commonest little duties of every day life? 
What kind of homes will my boys have when they 
marry such girls! But, of course, my girl will be 
different. While she lies there in the cradle I can 
imagine great things for her. 

She came when the leaves were getting ready to 
go, when the world was full of golden sunshine 
and golden leaves and the heavy blue haze hung 
over the mountains. I always think that our falls 
are the best part of the year, now I know they are 
for this one has brought me the daughter for whom 
I have longed. My fifth little daughter, rny five in 
one. Now, if I can just live to raise her and to see 
you again, I shall feel that life has been indeed kind 
to me. 

For help this time we had a young Scotch woman 
who just moved here from the mines in Wyoming. 
She and her husband are homesteading over on the 
railroad and as she has only one little girl, can 
get ready in a moment or two. Nels went for her 
after I was taken sick and my Jim boy was with me, 
the other Mackie girl, Agnes, was here as my regu- 
lar help. Nels was not gone long and Mrs. Kerr is 
a woman of experience in all lines so everything 
went pleasantly. I had planned to have a doctor this 
time but we got along very well without one. When 
the baby was a few hours old, my good helper, Agnes 
Mackie! came and held her on her lap and I suggested 
that she name her. She said that she did not 
know any good names and I asked her what was the 
matter with her own name. She modestly protested 
but I assured her that it was a good name to me, so 
Agnes it is. I can imagine you will soon be writing 
letters to her. This Mrs. Kerr has a beautiful little 
daughter named Maudie. She has such wonderful 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 101 

golden hair and the bluest of blue eyes. She looks 
like a doll or a fairy here among my dark skinned 
boys, but they are very fond of her. She is as good 
as she is pretty and she may always be attractive 
to my swarthy boys but she is only four years old 
now. One of my favorite theories has always been 
that babies should not come into homes where there 
are grown up children, and where the older children 
are beginning to have babies of their own I have 
looked upon it as a positive disgrace. I used to 
sometimes even wonder if my own grown up boys 
could love a baby, but when my big Fred boy came 
home to see his little sister and knelt down beside 
the bed to love us both, I knew that she was not "one 
too many" as I had feared. Oh, how they all love 
her! Some people are already predicting that she 
will be "spoiled" but I refuse to be her mother if 
she is. I shall expect her to mind just as her broth- 
ers have done before her. Of course with so many 
brothers she could be spoiled but I shall make it a 
point to see that she is not. 

This has been the coldest winter of our experience, 
during the entire month of January the mercury 
has registered below zero and there is a lot of snow. 
We have sold hay to sheep men and they are feed- 
ing here on the river but the severe weather is hard 
on stock of all kinds. 

I must close now with five big loves from five big 
grandsons and one little, tiny, tiny love from one 
little grand-daughter. 

Your 

Emma. 




THE BIG HOUSE. 



Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory, 

January 15, 1888. 
Dear Father: 

HP HIS year has been mostly spent in building. Did 
-*- you ever imagine that your little "Em" would be 
living in a brick house by the time you made her a 
visit? Well, the brick house is assured and the visit 
we are still hoping for. 

We have only one room finished but it is such a 
big kitchen that we live in it and get along very 
well with our sleeping rooms still in the old house. 
You see we have burned the brick right here on the 
place and the lumber is hauled from saw mills in the 
mountains so it has been a long job requiring a lot 
of labor. Then too, we are trying to have it all done 
as cheaply as possible for it is making terrible in- 
roads on our savings. It is built very much on the 
plan of the old house, so we will not feel too much 
like visitors. The long kitchen occupies the entire 
west side of the house and the front will be toward 
the east with a hall to the kitchen and a large room 



104 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

on one side and two small ones on the other. There 
will be a loft where the boys can sleep and the stairs 
lead up from the hall. 

My good Nettie has a new house this year, too. 
Such a beauty. It has a parlor and dining room 
and all such things that belong to the world of civili- 
zation, and a lot of fine furniture that Steve has 
shipped from Ogden. Bureaus and wash stands with 
solid marble tops. I never saw such pretty things and 
I count myself fortunate indeed that I am privi- 
leged to visit there and enjoy it all. Everything of 
hers far outshines mine, of course, but mine are 
still very much better than I ever expected to fall 
to my lot. In all our years of friendship I do not 
think there has ever been one shadow of envy or 
jealousy. We have always rejoiced in each others 
good fortunes. I would as soon think of envying Net- 
tie her beautiful golden hair, as her finer home. Why 
I remember how we all adored Nettie and I think I 
loved her more because of her prettiness than for 
any other reason. She was fair and I so like a 
Gypsy. In fact, that was one of your names for me, 
"little Gypsy", do you remember? Even Nettie's 
children, while I will not say they are better than 
mine, are far more gifted. I believe I love her Fred 
just the same as I do my own. He is such a wonder- 
ful boy. So kind and thoughtful and, at the same 
time, so intelligent. He is the greatest source of 
information. I always have a lot of questions saved 
up to ask him when we go down there, and he will 
answer them in such a kindly gracious manner that 
he makes me feel like I really knew it all the time 
and was doing him a great favor to ask him. 

With the passing of the Stevens family into the 
new house, one of the old land marks is abandoned, 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 105 

the old log house that was hauled from Soda Springs 
and has been the scene of the happiest times of our 
lives. "Bummer's Retreat'' the old room with the 
fire place was usually called because everyone 
with time to spare congregated there. How the old 
walls have often echoed with laughter and song 
after a sumptious supper of corn meal mush and 
milk. I wonder if we shall ever be able to adjust 
ourselves to brick walls and marble topped furniture. 

With the children of the two families growing up 
in such intimacy I wonder sometimes if they will 
ever marry. It seems like it would be ideal for them 
to, but perhaps that is the reason they never will. 
Children seldom care to marry where it would oe 
perfectly satisfactory with the parents. Well, any- 
way the friendship has meant a great deal to all of 
us in the years that are gone, and that is enough to 
know. 

Our little girl is growing and walking but she 
does not talk yet. She uses a great many signs and 
gestures to make herself understood but seems very 
slow in saying words. I guess she will talk, though, 
if we give her time. Nettie has a baby boy a few 
months younger than Agnes, her fifth, but she has 
them all yet. So with new babies and new houses 
we are leading very busy, happy lives. 

I must away to my countless duties, hoping this 
finds you well as it leaves all of us. 

Your 

Emma. 




AN IRRIGATION PROJECT. 



Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory, 

September 3, 1889. 
Dear Father: 

rp HIS is becoming such a busy world that I hardly 
-*■ have time to write to you and the first thing I 
know you will be thinking I do not love you. 

Now that things seem to be getting pretty well 
done at home, with the new house finished and water 
on most of the land, Nels is undertaking something 
bigger. Water is to be brought from up the Snake 
river, above Eagle Rock, to irrigate a large amount 
of land that at present is worthless. The people who 
are doing it call themselves "The Idaho Canal Com- 
pany" and Nels is interested both as a promoter and 
a contractor. 

I am not sure that I approve of the step, but like 
most husbands he did not ask my advice. I've 
always looked forward to the time when we could 
feel that all the necessities of life were provided for 
us and we could have a little leisure for the things 
that we long to do. A rose bush or two that will 
bloom as if they enjoyed it, a strawberry bed where 
we could pick our own fresh berries, and even a good 
unfailing vegetable garden where we could be sure 



108 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

of finding good things to eat all through the summer. 
These things do not appeal to Nels. He always says : 
"Oh, Sis, never mind, we'll raise a ton of hay and buy 
all the strawberries we need." He is looking for 
bigger game. 

Of course his vision is broader than mine. He 
sees what an enterprise like this will mean to the 
country, while I only see that it will take him away 
from home and burden him with a lot of work and 
worry. The ditch or canal is to be about thirty miles 
in length and will supply water for 35,000 acres of 
the finest land that ever lay out doors. Land that 
we knew to be superior to ours when we located here 
but we knew too that it was more than a one man job 
to get the water to it. Not an acre of our own land 
will be benefitted by the new ditch but Nels feels that 
he wants to take part in making "The desert bloom 
as the rose." 

Another point that appeals to him. He has al- 
ways maintained that a father with a growing fam- 
ily of boys should provide work for them or they 
will drift away from home. This is his opportunity. 
By taking contract work he is giving them a chance 
to do the work that they understand. We have not 
been able to give them much schooling so they must 
of necessity be sons of the soil, men that work with 
their hands. 

Our Jim boy is such a wonder! He is really in 
charge of contract work and, though only eigh- 
teen years old, he has had as high as thirty-five men 
working under him. I wish every father and every 
mother in the world might have a Jim boy like ours. 
Such a boy in years but such a man in shouldering 
responsibilities. I can hardly remember a time 
when he has not been his father's most trusted 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 109 

helper. He is not very strong looking. I don't think 
he really ever recovered from his terrible sick spell, 
but his supply of energy seems to be inexhaustible 
and though small of stature his muscles are like 
iron and there never seems to be a job too big for 
him. 

Will, too, is on the ditch job. I don't think he will 
ever have any executive ability but he keeps his end 
up at the regular work and part of the time he has 
been doing the cooking at one of the smaller camps. 
We happened in one day unexpectedly and found 
one of the nicest dinners ready. I could'nt have told 
but what I had prepared everything myself. 

Even I have been called upon to help with the new 
work. At the big camp they have a woman and a 
girl doing the cooking but Nels thought they should 
have a few lessons from me. I was with them 
several days and quite enjoyed it. Think of bread 
mixed in a wash tub. The only thing that would 
hold enough for such a lot of hungry men. 

Grandfather Just is with us again now. He has 
been in Montana a good many years but he feels now 
that he will need to be where someone of his own can 
take care of him. He eats his meals with us but has 
a little home of his own fixed up in a part of our tool 
house. 

Wish us well in our new enterprise and come see 
us. 

With love, 

Emma. 




PRESTO. 



Presto Idaho Territory, 

April 20, 1890. 
My dear Father : 

T\ YOU note that change of heading in this let- 
•■-^ter? Do you know what it means? Wonder of 
wonders, we have a post office. Our dear, kind 
hearted Uncle Samuel has consented to carry our 
mail for us, to bring it to our door twice each week. 
It actually seems to us that we are living in the very 
heart of civilization. The post office is right here in 
our own house, mind you, with Mr. McElroy, who 
is here teaching the children, as post master. The 
name is one Nels suggested to the Department and 
as you know, is Mr. BurrelPs given name, but he 
and Nels are such enemies that Nels denies having 
any intention of naming the office for him. Be that 
as it may, it is a good name and a wonderful conven- 
ience to the neighborhood. It is a star route from 
Blackfoot. 

Another blessing has been bestowed upon us by 
our Government. To encourage the growth of tim- 
ber on Western prairies, they have passed a law that 
by setting out a certain number of shade trees, you 



112 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

can acquire an additional hundred and sixty acres, 
over and above the homestead. Nels lost no time in 
availing himself of this opportunity. It is a lot of 
work but the reward is two-fold and I am quite 
overjoyed at the prospect of so many trees to beauti- 
fy our somewhat barren homestead. 

You should certainly be glad to hear of one thing 
upon which we agree so heartily for I certainly re- 
count enough of our disagreements. Most of our 
quarrels, fortunately, are over little things. I think 
we have had more difficulty over the sewing on of 
buttons than anything in our married lives. Dif- 
ferent trouble than you might imagine too. Some 
husbands complain because of buttons left off, but 
mine always has his trouble with the ones I want 
to sew on. If I see a suspender button missing or a 
wrist band hanging down, it is my natural impulse 
to rush to sew it on. I would gladly take my hands 
out of the dough or leave my dinner to get cold while 
I relieve him of the annoyance, but just when I think 
I am being the most considerate, he scolds me for 
bothering, so the missing button ends in a quarrel. 
Once when we had jangled for several hours with 
such a small starter, Nels said in his most petulant 
manner : "I don't see why you want to bother about 
such small things. ,, In the coolest tone I could com- 
mand, I said : "Well, if it is a small thing for me to 
bother with don't you think it is a pretty small thing 
for you to object to?" He hesitated a minute and 
answered very submissively: "Damif I don't be- 
lieve you're right." 

Another of our pet subjects for argument is floor 
scrubbing. Nels is firmly convinced that a floor 
never gets dirty enough to need scrubbing, so I 
usually do it when he is away from home. When 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 113 

he comes back there is perhaps no supper ready, no 
cows milked, just a clean floor. Naturally he scolds 
me and, being tired and hungry myself, I am very 
easily offended so in a very short time I am crying 
and feeling that he is a brute to abuse me so. Really 
the most serious quarrels have always been because 
he thought I was not taking proper care of myself 
so I guess they have not been very serious after all. 

Our canal building venture has had no unhappy 
consequences and they can see the end of it now. It 
has been a terrible strain on Nels for it has brought 
him into contact with other people of varying opin- 
ions. Up to the present he has had the chance to 
manage his work just as he saw fit, but with this 
he has found it necessary to give and take a good 
deal and the nervous strain has made him very hard 
to please with home affairs. Still I think it has been 
worth the price and the shares he holds in the com- 
pany will give us a nice little income for our later 
life. 

The last winter has been a hard one on the 
country. It put a lot of cattlemen out of business. 
You see, up to the present, the really big stock men 
have made no provision for feeding their cattle in 
winter. Of course, the grass is good, wonderfully 
good, and by keeping a good force of men on the job, 
they could use the desert, the Ft. Hall bottoms, the 
foot hills and the mountains as the weather condi- 
tions best suited them. In that way they managed 
to bring them through without any great loss, but 
last winter was so very severe, with all their wonder- 
ful variety of range, there was nothing left un- 
covered and the cattle died by the thousands. The 
owners of them were living in luxury in their east- 
ern homes, figuring on the number of steers they 



114 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

would have fat for the June market and before word 
of the distress could reach them their herds were 
reduced pitifully, or in many cases wiped out com- 
pletely. This will mark the passing of the cattle 
king, and perhaps it will mark the dawn of a new 
era, the era of irrigation. 

We are all very well now but my little girl is a 
constant anxiety. I dread the coming of hot weather 
for each summer she has had such terrible bowel 
trouble that I've feared that I couldn't pull her 
through. Oh, I cannot spare her! 

Write to me oftener now that I am so sure of get- 
ting your letters without any needless delay. 

Love from all 
Emma. 




COUNTING MY BLESSINGS. 



Presto, Idaho. 

May 1, 1891. 

My dear, dear Father: 

f^ AN IT be possible that this is the last time I am 
^to write to you! Can it be that after twenty- 
four years of cruel separation, we are to be together 
again? I am so happy I can hardly settle myself to 
write. It seems too good to be true, like I am dream- 
ing and will soon find it all a mistake. But here is 
your letter stating plainly that your business is sold 
and you will be packed by the time you get an ans- 
wer. This has been the longest deferred happiness 
of my life and many times I have feared that I would 
not be here when you came. At the beginning of 
each year, though, I have hoped that you would come 
back to me before its close ; then, instead of feeling 
the disappointment, I have hoped anew for another 
year. 

Such changes as you will find, father! Changes 
in the country and changes in me ! 

Our Territory has become a State, our wilderness 
has become a home, and the Snake River Valley 
gives promise of being one of the richest in the 



116 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

world. Eagle Rock, that was a bleak stage station 
when Fred's father and I cooked there for the stage 
company in the early sixties, is a miniature city and 
calls itself "Idaho Falls." The ladies who throng 
the social gatherings are wont to doubt me when I 
boast that one winter I was the only woman who 
lived there. 

The start of cows that you gave me, in the course 
of twenty years has grown into a herd of several 
hundred, adding materially to our prosperity. 

My own age has more than doubled. You left me 
a child and will find me past the prime of life and 
the mother of ten children. Oh, there will be a lot 
of surprises for you and they will not all be happy 
ones I fear. You will not be disappointed in Mels, 
I am sure, for you are broad minded enough to see 
his goodness in spite of his many petty faults. We 
have not lived an ideal life, but looking around me, I 
am forced to admit that he is a better husband and 
a better father than any I can name. We have ex- 
perienced prosperity and adversity, sickness and 
health, hope and despair. We have laid to rest four 
of our family of ten, but we have met all of it to- 
gether and unafraid. And looking back over the 
years, I can truthfully say, "Life has been kind to 
me." Sometimes I feel that I am the luckiest person 
in the world for all my wishes have come true. That 
is, they will have come true when I can welcome you, 
my father, to the home we have made. 

Our home. It is a good substantial, homey home. 
The rooms are large and the furniture is large to fit 
them, some of it made by the carpenter according 
to my orders. We have a new range that seems 
very big and clumsy to me, more fit for hotel use, 
but it is a wonder from a cook's point of view, so 



LETTERS OF LONG AGO 117 

I think I will learn to like it. We also have water 
piped into the kitchen. Think of the luxury of it! 
Your "Em" who used to draw water with an old 
well sweep to do washing for the aristocratic 
Southerners, has now but to turn a tap and the 
water is there. 

We keep help in the house all the time now. A 
girl who is my helper and my companion as well. 
I have made many young friends in this way and 
we both have been benefitted. Just now we have a 
wonderfully good girl, Crillia Carson, who is a niece 
of a girl that Nels wanted to marry before he met 
me. She declined, however, but he has told me so 
much about her that it is nice to be in touch with 
them again. Nels has always been good to get help 
for me when our means would permit, and his 
mother, who is with us now, says : "He babies Emma 
too much." Perhaps it is true, but I feel that I have 
done my share of the world's work and if I can teach 
others a few of the things I have learned I can con- 
sider myself through. 

Yes since I wrote last, Grand-father Just died, 
just peacefully passed away, and true to her word, 
the old lady came to us just as soon as he was gone. 
She is a queer little body, but full of good humor and 
helpfulness. Insists upon doing for herself in every 
way and then knits, knits, knits for everyone for 
pastime. 

Now, about the family you are soon to meet. Fred 
my first born, is a man and my fears that he might 
follow his father's footsteps were groundless. He 
has led a rough life, working away from home most 
of the time since he was twelve, but there have been 
happy homecomings for the other children are es- 
pecially fond of their big, cow-boy brother. 



118 LETTERS OF LONG AGO 

Jim is his father's helper. Has been doing a 
man's work since he was fourteen and very often,the 
work of two or three. 

Will is still the peace-maker, so full of wit and 
originality. His supply of good humor often turns 
a bad situation into a laugh. I don't think we have 
any favorites, for each in his own way is best, but 
Will is certainly a great joy to us. 

Francis and Charlie are still just boys. Dutiful, 
loving lads that will soon be taking their places in 
the world as their brothers have done. 

Then there is the last and least, baby Agnes. 
Least in size if not least in importance. Of all my 
babies she is the only one that you are to see while 
the least semblance of babyhood is still with her. 
You asked what you were to bring her from over 
the seas. I left it up to her and her decision was 
prompt : "A boy doll." 

Now, a long good-bye. Good-bye to pen, ink and 
paper. I shall be counting the hours until that 
"White Star Liner'' brings you safely back to our 
own good U. S. A. and to me. 

In loving anticipation, 

Emma. 



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